East Carolina senior quarterback Shane Carden started strong and finished with a flourish Saturday to lead the Pirates to a 28-21 win at Virginia Tech.
ECU built a 21-0 first-quarter lead, thanks to three Carden TD passes, then muddled around for almost three quarters as the Hokies tied it at 21 late in the fourth quarter. Carden then led ECU on a game-winning drive, finishing it off with a 1-yard TD run.
Carden (6-foot-2, 221 pounds), who is considered a potential third-day draft pick, finished with 427 passing yards; it was the first time Virginia Tech allowed a 400-yard passer since Syracuse's Troy Nunes threw for 403 yards in a three-overtime win over the Hokies in 2002. It was the fourth 400-yard game of Carden's career and the third time in two seasons he guided ECU to a victory over an ACC team.
Virginia Tech was coming off a 35-21 win at Ohio State last week and moved into the top 25 as a result of the victory; the Hokies seem likely to fall out of the top 25 this week.
The Hokies had tied it up on an 18-yard TD pass from Michael Brewer to Cam Phillips with 1:20 left. ECU needed just three plays and two illegal substitution penalties on the Hokies to go 65 yards for the winning TD. Carden hit 31- and 28-yard passes to Worthy, then scored on the 1-yard run after the second penalty. Worthy led ECU with six receptions for 224 yards. Star wide receiver Justin Hardy had just four catches for 47 yards, but other receivers -- most notably, Worthy and Jimmy Williams (four catches, 77 yards) -- stepped up and produced as Hokies defensive backs definitely paid extra attention to Hardy.
Last season, Carden was sacked seven times and threw for just 158 yards in one of the worst performances of his career in a 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech. Saturday, he carved up a Virginia Tech secondary that looked to be one of the two or three best in the nation. He picked on sophomore corner Brandon Facyson in the first quarter, to the extent that Facyson was benched late in the period.
Carden was 11-of-19 for 175 yards and three TDs in the first quarter.
ECU plays host to North Carolina next week; the Pirates torched the Tar Heels 55-31 last season behind 376 yards and three TDs from Carden.