Positives have been hard to find for the Pirates during their past two games, but on Saturday everything seemed to go right during East Carolina’s 34-6 victory over Tulane.
The Pirates (7-3, 4-2 AAC) snapped a two-game losing skid with a wire-to-wire win over Tulane (3-8, 2-5 AAC) in a game where senior wide receiver Justin Hardy caught his 350th pass to break the FBS receptions record set by former Oklahoma star Ryan Broyles (349) in 2011.
The magic moment came at the 5:46 mark in the second quarter when Hardy caught a Carden pass on an 8-yard curl route to send the 48,433 fans at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium into a frenzy.
Hardy, who began his college career as a walk-on, said the key to his success was to continue to work hard every day.
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“Never give up, and never let anybody tell you that you can’t be anything,” Hardy said.
ECU quarterback Shane Carden said there were no special plans to get Hardy the ball early and that he was extremely happy to see his teammate break the record.
“It was awesome, just awesome,” Carden said. “(It was so loud) that we had to go silent (count) for a few plays. It’s an awesome record for him, and he’s a great guy and deserves that record.”
Hardy finished the game with nine catches for 104 yards, while fellow wideout Cam Worth recorded a game-high 115 receiving yards on seven catches.
The Pirates offense, which committed five turnovers during a loss to Temple and didn’t find its rhythm until late against Cincinnati, played a solid overall game.
ECU committed zero turnovers against a Tulane defense that entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in takeaways. Carden completed 31 of his 44 pass attempts for 358 yards while throwing for one TD and running for another.
“It was a great team win,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Everyone was embracing the whole to make the team better. We did a good job out there.”
After getting torched by Cincinnati for 54 points last Thursday, the ECU defense kept Tulane out of the end zone completely, allowing only a pair of Andrew DiRocco field goals.
The key was a staunch Pirates front seven that teed off on Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee (25-43-1, 301), racking four sacks and nine tackles for a loss. The ECU defense shut down the Green Wave rushing attack, holding it to 24 yards on 27 attempts.
“We focused on stopping the run,” McNeill said. “We wanted to get them in third-and-long situations. That was the main focus defensively.”
Inside linebacker Brandon Williams led the team with 11 tackles and one-and-a-half sacks, while OLB Maurice Falls had an interception. It was the first time the ECU defense had not given up a touchdown in a game since 2008.
The Pirates took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter thanks to a 35-yard Warren Harvey field goal and an Isaiah Jones 4-yard TD reception.
After Green Wave’s first field goal in the second quarter, ECU took a 17-3 lead after a Breon Allen 15-yard TD run.
ECU added another Harvey field goal in the third, then tacked on two TDs in the fourth to cement its win.