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ECU survives unexpected test from UConn

Oct 24, 2014 - 6:16 AM Greenville, NC ( - Shane Carden threw for a season-high 445 yards with two touchdowns and No. 18 East Carolina held off upset-minded Connecticut with a 31-21 win on Thursday.

Carden, who had three straight games of 400-plus passing yards earlier this season, completed 38 passes on a career-high 64 attempts with one interception.

Breon Allen rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns to help the heavily-favored Pirates (6-1, 3-0 AAC) win their fifth straight game.

Justin Hardy recorded season highs with 14 receptions and 186 yards with a touchdown in the win.

Chandler Whitmer threw for 303 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while also recording a rushing score for the Huskies (1-6, 0-4), who have now lost five straight games and have yet to beat an FBS opponent this season.

"In the locker room, our guys are crushed. There are no moral victories," said Connecticut coach Bob Diaco. "We didn't come here to play well, we came here to win a football game and we didn't."

East Carolina allowed UConn to drive right down the field for a touchdown and tie the game at 14-14 on its opening touch of the third quarter, but Carden led a 10-play, 91-yard scoring march on the ensuing Pirates possession.

Carden hooked up with Hardy over the middle for eight yards on 2nd-and-goal from the 9, however, the Pirates were stopped on third down. They chose to go for it, as they did for most of the night, and Allen waltzed into the end zone to give the hosts a 21-14 lead.

The Huskies didn't back down, though. After a punt from each team, Whitmer went up top to Deshon Foxx for an 88-yard catch-and-run that tied the game with under four minutes remaining in the third.

Warren Harvey then pushed ECU in front with a 31-yard field goal midway through the fourth.

The Pirates forced a punt, and Allen put the game away, capping a 10-play, 76- yard drive with a 9-yard TD run.

"We went in at halftime and made adjustments," said East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill. "I was proud of the kids because they were able to handle making adjustments. There are some things we learned in the last two games. We know we have to stay focused, but sometimes we forget that and we have a hard time staying focused and doing what we do. So that was a correction we made at halftime."

On the second play from scrimmage, Carden converted a short pass to Hardy across the middle and the receiver scampered to midfield for a 28-yard gain. Carden then capped the opening series with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Hardy, who made a juggling catch while diving to the ground in the corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

East Carolina converted two fourth-down conversions with ease on its next possession, and Bryce Williams hauled in a 10-yard TD pass on a jump ball by Carden to give the hosts a two-score advantage.

UConn answered with a quick seven-play drive that went 77 yards and culminated with a 1-yard rushing score by Whitmer. Thomas Lucas started the drive with a 43-yard catch, then Fox and Dhameer Bradley caught passes of 13 and 11 yards, respectively, to move the ball into the red zone. Ron Johnson was stuffed on third down from the 1, but Whitmer picked his running back up with a quarterback sneak across the goal line to make it 14-7 after one quarter of play.

The Huskies forced a turnover on downs early in the second as the Pirates continued to take gambles in UConn territory. The ECU defense made amends, however, with defensive lineman Terry Biles intercepting a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage and returning it to the Huskies 33.

Carden traded the interception with one of his own as he tossed up an ill- advised pass into the end zone and Byron Jones came down with the turnover.

Harvey missed a 33-yard field goal for the Pirates with seconds remaining in the opening half.

The Huskies tied the game early in the second half, as Whitmer hit Lucas for 37 yards, then converted a 32-yard touchdown pass to Noel Thomas three plays later.

Game Notes

This matchup of new conference foes was the first meeting between the schools ... Pirates freshman receiver Trevon Brown left the game in the first half and did not return. He returned to the sideline later in the contest with an air cast on his left leg ... Hardy moved into second place on the NCAA's all-time receptions list, trailing only Ryan Broyles (349) ... ECU is off to its best start since opening the 1999 season at 7-1 ... Foxx finished with 120 yards receiving, while Lucas had 80 in the setback ... UConn has dropped six of its last seven against Top 25 opponents.