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No. 22 ECU easily handles SMU in American opener

Oct 4, 2014 - 9:20 PM Greenville, NC ( - Shane Carden threw three of his four touchdown passes to Justin Hardy and the 22nd-ranked East Carolina Pirates cruised past the SMU Mustangs, 45-24, in their first-ever American Athletic Conference game.

Carden completed 31-of-41 passes for 410 yards for the Pirates (4-1, 1-0 AAC), who have won three in a row. He also carried the ball seven times for 47 yards.

Hardy caught eight passes for 120 yards and Isaiah Jones hauled in nine passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.

"It was a great win; the inaugural win in the league," said ECU coach Ruffin McNeill. "I thought we did a good job coming out and playing as a team."

Garrett Krstich connected on 42-of-67 passes for 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception for the Mustangs (0-5, 0-1), who entered the contest with just 12 points in four games.

Darius Joseph caught 13 passes for 100 yards and two scores in defeat.

"I am disappointed in the way we played defense today and that's on me," said interim SMU coach Tom Mason. "I have been spending my time on doing other things and not focusing on defense and we just we played good at times but we had too many individual breakdowns and you can't play that way, especially against a quarterback like that."

The Pirates never looked back after Jones caught an 11-yard TD pass with six minutes left in the first quarter. Jones hauled in three passes for 35 yards during the 12-play, 79-yard drive.

East Carolina scored another touchdown on its next possession. Hardy caught a 21-yard pass on 3rd-and-5 to move the chains, then Steve Baggett made a 25- yard catch. Hardy capped the series with a 9-yard TD catch.

Hardy added his second score of the game early in the second period. After making a 38-yard catch, Hardy caught a 2-yard TD pass to make it 21-0.

SMU responded with an impressive 18-play, 79-yard drive that featured three fourth-down conversions. Prescott Line scored from two yards out with 3:24 left in the half.

But Hardy's 30-yard score made it 28-7 at the break.

SMU outscored East Carolina by a 17-7 margin in the third quarter to get within 35-24. But the Pirates responded with 10 points in the fourth to put the game away.

Game Notes

East Carolina leads the all-time series, 3-2 ... Chris Hairston carried the ball 12 times for 53 yards and one touchdown for the Pirates ... SMU was limited to 51 yards rushing ... Carden became ECU's all-time leader in passing yards when he connected on a 30-yard pass to Jones in the third quarter (now has 9,134 career) passing David Garrard (9,029 from 1998-2001) ... Hardy has caught multiple passes in 41 straight games.