On Virginia Tech’s football field, moments after East Carolina’s 28-21 upset, Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill and quarterback Shane Carden shared a hug.
“He knows I love him, just like I love all the guys on this team,” McNeill said. “I’m proud of Shane. He’s a direct example of what we believe in. We hugged at the end of the game because we both believe in the commitment to the team.”
When the chips were down and the Pirates needed a leader, Carden stepped up.
Even though the No. 17 Hokies had managed to stop every Pirates drive of the second, third and fourth quarters, Carden said he was confident he could engineer a scoring drive with just 55 seconds remaining.
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Finding Cam Worthy on the sidelines for 31 yards was the first order of business. Closely guarded by defender Donovan Riley, Carden placed the ball perfectly on Worthy’s fingertips at the sidelines. After a 5-yard penalty on Virginia Tech moved the ball to the Hokies 29, Carden found him again on the left side.
During the game, Carden found seven receivers, a statistic McNeill cited as further evidence of the success of the team-first concept.
The team is first, and individuals don’t win games by themselves. However, there were individual accolades to mention.
Carden now is the East Carolina all-time leader in touchdown passes. His 2-yard toss to Isaiah Jones set that mark at 63, passing Dominique Davis. Carden also erased Davis as the leader in career completions, eclipsing his mark of 727 with a 23-yarder to Trevon Brown.
This comes against a Virginia Tech team that harrassed Carden into one of his worst games a year ago in Greenville, where the Hokies sacked Carden seven times and picked off three passes, holding him to 157 yards.
Things were different Saturday. One of those who couldn’t help but notice was Hokies coach Frank Beamer.
“I don’t think anybody throws it any better than he does. He put a lot of deep balls right on the money,” Beamer said after the game.
Carden deflected all credit to his receivers. He said players like Worthy, Jimmy Williams and Brown make it easy.
“We have great receivers. We knew (Virginia Tech was) going to be playing out there one-on-one and when it’s one-on-one, I like our receivers,” Carden said. “They made my job easy all day. I was just throwing it up there and they were going to get it.”