GREENVILLE East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden has been forced to throw the football into some tight coverages, and his results have mostly been positive.
The junior enters Monday’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl against Ohio (7-5) with just 10 interceptions in 12 games, and three of those came on deflected passes in a loss at Marshall in the C-USA title game.
Carden had 3,866 passing yards (first in Conference USA and sixth nationally) and 32 touchdown passes despite facing two of the top three pass defenses in the country – Florida Atlantic (second, 161.5 yards allowed per game) and Virginia Tech (third, 165.8 yards) – and six ranked in the top 50.
Six of ECU’s opponents also ranked in the top 50 in interceptions, so Carden enters the bowl game battle tested.
“Experience helps in anything, and the defenses we’ve faced and the fronts that the offensive line has faced is going to help us, and even continuing into next year, really,” said Carden, who faces a Bobcats pass defense ranked 29th, allowing 212.2 yards per game. “Ohio is a different defense, and we’ve prepared for them and we understand they might come in with some other stuff we haven’t seen.”
ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley knows the value of such high-quality repetitions, not just for Carden but for his entire offense.
“That helps a lot, and maybe more than just because of the defense we’re going against,” Riley said. “We’ve got a lot of guys now that have played a lot of ball, even young guys like (receiver) Isaiah Jones (second on the team with 54 receptions and five TDs) and (offensive lineman) Tre Robertson who really aren’t young guys anymore. Also, a lot of these guys have played in a bowl game before, and they know what we’ve done well and what we’ve got to do better.”
No matter how the Bobcat defense tries to scheme against the Pirates’ pass machine, Carden says his team’s wins have been a product of ECU taking the initiative.
“The times that we do good and our offense excels and scores points is when we worry about ourselves and not as much about what the defense is doing,” Carden said.
• The Pirates (9-3) enter their final game of the season ranked No. 30 nationally in total offense and total defense. ECU has churned out 459.8 yards per game while allowing an average of 363.2 yards.
ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill gives a good deal of the credit for that balance to Riley and defensive coordinator Rick Smith.
“Rick and Lincoln are great leaders and they do a good job of working with their (position) coaches,” McNeill said. “I don’t have to worry about them, and they work well together. I’ve been on some staffs where the coordinators didn’t work well together, where it was a competition. All it is here is them making sure that they help each other win games.”
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