Carden And Hardy Always Seem To Be On The Same Page

UABSPORTS.COM Junior Shane Carden passed for a school-record 447 yards with five touchdowns
Junior Shane Carden passed for a school-record 447 yards with five touchdowns

Sep 1, 2013

By Bill Woodward

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Shane Carden and Justin Hardy, a pair of talented juniors, just keep spinning records for East Carolina's football team.

Carden, the Pirates' quarterback, and wide receiver Hardy set school records for passing yards and receptions, respectively, in last season's final regular-season game - a 65-59 double-overtime victory over Marshall.

They opened the 2013 season in similar fashion.

Carden passed for 447 yards (topping the 439 he had against Marshall) Saturday night in a 52-38 victory over Old Dominion, and Hardy equaled his school record of 16 catches he made against Marshall.

"I don't think (I've seen him better)," Hardy said of Carden's 46-for-54 performance.

It would be hard to be much better than Carden was against the Monarchs. He got into a rhythm early and used his pocket presence to evade rushers and buy some extra time after time before looking downfield and finding open ECU receivers.

"That is his gift," ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. "Nowadays, you can't just sit in one place and be a good quarterback."

The high-scoring game featured a pair of mobile quarterbacks. Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke won the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy last year, claiming the Payton Award after passing for more than 5,000 yards and 44 touchdowns as a sophomore.

"To have a quarterback like Taylor and like Shane to be able to extend plays is key now," McNeill said. "Shane did a good job for us tonight and led us to victory."

Carden passed for five touchdowns to Heinicke's three. But it was not an individual battle, the ECU quarterback said.

"It's was not me versus him," Carden said." It was our team versus their team."



But at times, it seemed like a one-on-one shootout as the two quarterbacks took turns moving their teams down the field.

Carden was on target from the beginning, going 8-for-8 in an opening touchdown drive.

"We started out great," Carden said. "That first drive was awesome. We kind of sputtered a little after that. But then we kept trusting it and got in our groove as an offense. We really made some good plays."

Hardy was Carden's go-to guy in the first half particularly. Hardy had 12 catches in the first half for 147 yards, finishing with 191 receiving yards for the game.

Carden and Hardy have developed a chemistry on the field, both players said.

"We know each other," Hardy said. "I know if he puts the ball out there I am going to catch it. Having that faith and trust in each other carries over to the field. It helps out a lot."

On a crucial drive to end the first half, the Pirates scored as time ran out. On a pair of third-down plays in the drive, Carden found Hardy for first downs - one for 17 yards and one for 15 - as the Pirates moved 75 yards in 2:25 and scored on a 6-yard pass to freshman Davon Grayson as the clock hit zeroes in the half.

"Everyone was cool, calm and collected," Carden said of the drive, which put the Pirates up 21-17. "We just went down the field and scored.

"Justin is very reliable. We just continue to get better and better (together). When I'm in trouble, he's open."

With Old Dominion matching ECU score for score until the Pirates finally took control in the fourth quarter, it was up to Carden to respond. And he did.

"I did not expect (to throw 54 passes)," Carden said. "But that was just the way our offense was working and the passing game started rolling so we just took it.

"I felt comfortable out there. Games like these you just have to keep fighting, keep scoring because you never know what the other team is going to do."

On Saturday night, Carden did what he had to do for the Pirates to outscore Old Dominion. It took a record-setting night, but he was up to the challenge.