East Carolina senior quarterback Shane Carden threw for 445 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night as the Pirates -- the only ranked team outside the Power Five conferences -- eased past Connecticut, 31-21.
The game was much closer than expected, with ECU (6-1) scoring its final TD with 1:25 left to finally put away the Huskies (1-6). UConn stymied ECU's rushing attack and threw for 313 yards to keep things interesting.
Carden went into the game as the nation's No. 5 passer, at 354.8 yards per game. The 445 yards were a season-high for Carden, who finished 38-of-64 passing with the two touchdowns and an interception. The attempts were a career-high, while his completions total was the fourth-highest of his career. It was his fourth 400-yard game of the season and the seventh of his career.
He now has thrown for 2,574 yards and 18 TDs; he threw for 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns last season.
East Carolina looks to be the current front-runner for the non-Power Five conferences' "automatic bid" into the top-tier bowls, and -- as with Fresno State's Derek Carr and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch last season -- Carden could be the quarterback who benefits from that attention in the Heisman race. In three games this season against Power Five opponents (wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech, and a loss to South Carolina), Carden threw for 1,186 yards, eight TDs and three interceptions.
ECU senior wide receiver Justin Hardy had 14 receptions for 186 yards vs. UConn, and moved into second place on the NCAA career receptions list, with 327. Former Oklahoma star Ryan Broyles, who's now with the Detroit Lions, holds the record with 349. ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has said Hardy (6-foot-0, 188 pounds) has some of the same qualities as San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Riley was an assistant at Texas Tech when Crabtree was there.