Oct. 23, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Chandler Whitmer (Newnan, Ga.) was 18 of 30 for a season-high 303 yards with two tying touchdown passes in the third quarter after rushing for a short score for the Huskies, but No. 18 East Carolina used a strong fourth quarter - and another huge performance from Shane Carden - to pull away from the UConn football team, 31-21.Carden threw for a season-high 445 yards - his seventh career 400-yard performance - on 38-of-64 passing, and Breon Allen ran for two touchdowns.
They helped the Pirates (6-1, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) sidestep a major upset bid by underdog UConn (1-6, 0-4) in East Carolina's first prime-time, weeknight showcase game in its new league.
"We understand we're going to take everybody's best shot," Carden said. "We want to win games, and that was a win."
Warren Harvey kicked the go-ahead 31-yard field goal with 6:15 left, Carden threw touchdown passes of 13 yards to Justin Hardy and 10 yards to Bryce Williams, and Allen scored on runs of 1 and 9 yards.
"There are no moral victories," first-year UConn coach Bob Diaco said. "We didn't come here to play well. We came here to win a football game, and we didn't."
Carden started the Pirates' go-ahead drive with a 30-yard throw to Hardy one play before Allen's 23-yard run to the 12. When that drive stalled, Harvey - who earlier missed from 33 yards - kicked his field goal to make it 24-21.
East Carolina forced a three-and-out, got the ball back with 5:22 left and ran most of the clock before Allen iced it with his 9-yard scoring run with 1:25 remaining.
"Those guys, when they had the chance to make plays, those guys made plays," Diaco said. "And our guys did not."
Hardy finished with 14 catches for 186 yards, and Cam Worthy added 138 yards receiving on seven receptions.
The Pirates extended their best start since 1999, earned bowl eligibility for the eighth time in nine years, and kept themselves in position to contend for one of the major New Year's bowls.This one wasn't always so secure - largely because of some untimely mistakes by the Pirates.
In addition to Harvey's missed field goal, Carden threw an interception in the end zone and East Carolina finished with 11 penalties for 105 yards.
Whitmer's 32-yard TD to Noel Thomas (Norwalk, Conn.) made it a 14-all game. His 88-yard catch-and-run to Deshon Foxx (Lynchburg, Va.) - after cornerback Josh Hawkins whiffed on the coverage - pulled UConn to 21-all with 3:43 left in the third.
East Carolina's defense stiffened after that, allowing the Huskies 35 yards combined on their next four possessions.
Still, that this would turn into a tight game seemed almost inconceivable after the quick-starting Pirates scored touchdowns on their first two series.
The first came when Hardy laid out in the end zone to catch his TD. Carden's scoring pass to Williams made it 14-0 not even 10 minutes in.
That's when UConn tightened things on defense, and got to work on offense. Whitmer countered with a short scoring plunge on fourth-and-goal from the East Carolina 1 on the next possession.
The Huskies tied it for the first time on their opening possession of the second half, making it 14-all on Whitmer's touchdown pass to Thomas - who broke wide open after Detric Allen fell.
Freshman tailback Ron Johnson (Naples, Fla.) made his first career start for the Huskies and rushed 13 times for 45 yards, both season-highs. Thomas had a career day with three receptions for 57 yards, while Foxx finished with 120 receiving yards for his fourth-career 100-yard day. Jefferson Ashiru (Powder Springs, Ga.) led UConn with 11 tackles, and Andrew Adams (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Marquise Vann (Cincinnati, Ohio) each made 10 stops.
The Huskies return to action on Saturday, Nov. 1 for Homecoming against Central Florida at Rentschler Field. The noon kick-off will be televised on CBS Sports Network and broadcasted on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.