One of the most prolific passing combinations in FBS history had its Senior Night spoiled Thursday as UCF hit a "Hail Mary" to beat East Carolina, 32-30.
ECU senior quarterback Shane Carden, considered a possible third-day draft pick (Rounds 4-7), threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns, giving him 4,309 yards -- the second-highest figure nationally -- and 28 touchdown passes this season. Pirates senior Justin Hardy, a potential second-day pick (Rounds 2-3) who already was the leading career receiver in FBS history, had 12 receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown; that gives him 376 career receptions with a bowl game remaining. In addition, he has caught at least two passes in 48 consecutive games.
But their big night was overshadowed by the improbable ending, with UCF's Justin Holman unleashing a 51-yard touchdown pass that was caught by Breshad Perriman -- who had gotten behind two ECU defenders -- on the final play. Perriman, the son of former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman, was unimpeded on his way into the end zone, and neither ECU player was able to get a hand on the pass.
UCF led, 26-9, entering the fourth quarter, but ECU rallied and took a 30-26 lead on a 13-yard TD pass from Carden to Hardy with 2:17 left. Then things really got wild. After UCF went four-and-out on its next drive, the Pirates took over on UCF's 15 with 1:47 remaining. UCF had only one timeout left, and after two ECU kneeldowns, UCF took its timeout with 1:02 left. Carden then lost 4 yards on a run, and ECU let the clock run before taking a timeout with 16 seconds left. On fourth down, Carden lost 11 yards on a run and UCF regained the ball at its 35 with 10 seconds left. A quick completion on an out pattern put the ball at UCF's 49, setting up the final play.
UCF finishes the regular season 9-3 and with a portion of the AAC title along with Memphis. Cincinnati can grab a share of the title, too, if it beats Houston on Saturday. ECU finishes 8-4.