GREENVILLE — East Carolina ran over, around and through Southern Miss on Saturday, scoring on nine of its 13 possessions in a 55-14 victory at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
I thought the kids executed well offensively, defensively and on special teams, East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. It was one of our best performances on all three sides of the ball.
East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden was stellar again as he passed for 308 yards and three touchdowns on 30 for 37 passing and ran for a score despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
Carden led the Pirates (5-2, 3-1 C-USA) to touchdowns on their first two drives, and from there the rout was on as they tallied 55 unanswered points to hand the Golden Eagles (0-6, 0-2 C-USA) their 18th consecutive loss.
The hot start was a welcome sight to ECU, which lost a taxing triple overtime game to Tulane a week ago.
I think for us personally it was pretty important, Carden said. We wanted to get out and establish ourselves, especially in the red zone and on the goal line instead of settling for field goals.
Wide receiver Justin Hardy continued his assault on opposing defenses and record books, catching 10 passes for 126 yards and to move into second place on ECUs all-time touchdown receptions. His 22nd career scoring catch on the first drive of the game from 1 yard out.
Records are made to be broken, Hardy said. I just go out there and play my game, and whatever happens, happens.
Hardy, who saw limited time in the second half, stands two touchdown catches away from passing Lance Lewis for the No. 1 spot.
Carden followed his touchdown pass to Hardy with an 11-yard scoring strike to Isaiah Jones. Vintavious Cooper tacked on a touchdown with darting his way through the USM defense for a 21-yard score 11:02 before the half.
The Pirates added another 10 points before the quarter ended as Carden scored on a 1-yard plunge, and Warren Harvey hit on a 27-yard field goal.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles struggled especially on offense where they were dominated by an energized ECU defense. After two quarters, USM accumulated just 94 yards (12 fewer than Hardy had alone), three first downs and kept the ball for only eight of the first 30 minutes to trail 31-0 at the break.
They were better, obviously, USM coach Todd Monken said. I wouldnt have expected that through three quarters we would have about 100 yards of total offense.
Starting quarterback Allen Bridgford finished completing only two of his 11 attempts for 15 yards. Backup freshman Nick Mullens was 9-for-17 for 97 yards and connected with Marquise Ricard and Bruce Johnson for touchdown passes of 15 and 8 yards, respectively.
ECU is off next week before resuming its push for a C-USA division title Nov. 2 at Florida International.