C-USA chatter: In player of year race, it’s Carden and everybody else

November 15, 2013 

The C-USA championship picture might not clear up until the Nov. 29-30 finales, but they can start engraving the name on the Player of the Year trophy.

Pick an offensive stat, and you won’t have to look long or far to find Shane Carden’s name.

Especially if you start at the top.

After last week’s games, ECU’s junior quarterback led the league in passing yards (2,973), yards per game (330.3), touchdown passes (24) and total offense (335.3). Six times he has thrown for 300 or more yards. Five times he has thrown at least three touchdown passes.

And he’s done all of that while leading the Pirates to a share of the East Division lead.

Including postseason, ECU could have as many as five games left, which would give Carden plenty of time to make a run at Dominique Davis’ single-season passing yards record (3,967 in 2010) and possibly Davis’ touchdown mark of 37.

For voters wanting to wait, Carden’s only competition is Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato. (ECU teammate Justin Hardy likely will get some lower-level votes.)

Cato threw for 456 yards and five touchdowns Thursday night as Marshall rallied past Tulsa. He now leads the league with 28 touchdown passes in 10 games. Carden will play his 10th game Saturday. The two meet Nov. 29 with the division title likely on the line. Cato might be able to sway some voters with a win and another big performance.

If you’re a Cato supporter and into comparing numbers, you’d point out that Cato was 19-for-41 with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a loss against Virginia Tech.

Carden had his worst game against the Hokies, throwing for just 158 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. That’s the only blip on Carden’s campaign, and he responded the next time out by throwing for 376 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-31 romp at North Carolina.

•  Haves vs. Have-nots: This season seemingly has been an endless exercise of stretching the gap between haves and have-nots.

Saturday the separation likely continues.

East division co-leader ECU (7-2, 5-1) welcomes Alabama-Birmingham (2-7, 1-4) in what can only be described as another tuneup for the Pirates’ Nov. 30 clash with Marshall.

UAB’s lone conference win came at Florida International’s expense. FIU has won just one league game, against winless Southern Miss. And so it’s gone.

Six teams – almost half of the league – have two or fewer conference wins; all but one of their victories was against another member of the Little Six.

It’s been that kind of year.

Chris Wright

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