CHAPEL HILL — It was the perfect way to celebrate a masterful performance. East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden stood atop a ladder in the northwest corner of Kenan Stadium in front of the Pirates student section and pretended to conduct the band as it played its school song.
Why not? Carden seemed to be in perfect rhythm all afternoon.
The junior quarterback threw for a game-high 376 yards and three touchdowns and ran for three more to lead East Carolina (3-1, C-USA) to a 55-31 victory against North Carolina (1-3, ACC) on Saturday. It was the most points any Pirates team had scored in the series.
He just orchestrated the offense in only a way that Shane can, said East Carolina running back Vintavious Cooper, who led the Pirates in rushing and receiving yards with 186 and 70, respectively.
I told him before the game started that there was no other person I would rather go to war with, and I meant that from the bottom of my heart.
Cardens double hat trick was the second of his career, making him the first Division I player to replicate the feat in 10 years.
Thats pretty cool, the unflappable QB said after learning of his accomplishment. Again, if you do that and dont win, then nobodys really talking about it too much. Its just great to get the win, and obviously I cant do that without my offensive line.
The first time Carden did it was during ECUs 65-59 double-overtime win against Marshall on Nov. 23.
On Saturday, Cardens six-score performance helped ECU beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill for the first time since 1975.
This was an awesome win. This one was for Pirate Nation, Carden said.
A little pick-me-up might have been in order after Cardens last performance, as he went 19 for 31 for 158 yards, one TD and three interceptions during ECUs 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech.
One game after arguably his worst performance as a Pirate, Carden bounced back with what might have been his best.
I was proud of Shane, East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill said. Hes self-motivated and easy to coach. I knew he would come back and have a good week.
Carden was intercepted once in the second quarter, but otherwise was near flawless, showing off his ability to throw and run.
He started with his arm, throwing a 6-yard touchdown strike to Justin Hardy on the first drive of the game before adding a 7-yard touchdown pass to Lance Ray to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Cardens mobility became a factor as he kept the ball on a read-option play and scored from the 1-yard line to take a 28-10 lead, and scored again with under two minutes left in the first half on a designed keeper from the 3-yard line.
Carden scored his third and final rushing touchdown midway through the third quarter on a play-action bootleg to his left, and tossed his final touchdown of the game in style, airing out a 48-yard strike to Lance Ray on fourth-and-1 with 3:33 left in the fourth quarter.