Greenville, NC (Sports Network) - Shane Carden's second effort to surge over the goal line in the second overtime put the East Carolina Pirates over the top in a 65-59 decision against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in a Conference USA regular-season finale.
Carden was huge for the Pirates (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) as he ran for three touchdowns and also converted 38-of-47 passes for 439 yards and three more scores as the team registered a third straight victory. Vintavious Cooper ran for 52 yards and two scores for ECU and Justin Hardy finished with a game-high 16 receptions, leading to 171 yards.
Marshall (5-7, 4-4), which needed a victory in order to become bowl eligible, was paced by Rakeem Cato who connected on 31-of-40 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns, but he was sacked two times, had a pass picked off and suffered an injury which prevented him from finishing the game. Antavious Wilson caught seven passes for 43 yards and three scores and Tommy Shuler reeled in 14 balls for 141 yards and two TDs in the team's second setback in the last three outings.
Marshall scored the first points of the game as it capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 32-yard TD strike from Cato to Aaron Dobson.
From there, the Pirates rattled off four straight touchdowns, beginning with a 59-yard scoring pass from Carden to Jabril Solomon at the 9:06 mark of the first to tie the score at 7-7. Carden added touchdown runs of one and three yards and Cooper landed in the end zone on a nine-yard effort as the lead grew to 28-7.
Cooper also added a one-yard TD run later in the frame, but not before Cato combined with Shuler on a 24-yard scoring pass play.
The Thundering Herd closed out the first half with consecutive touchdowns on passes of eight and 19 yards to Wilson and Shuler, respectively, to make the score 35-28 at the break.
The opening drive of the second half saw the Herd navigate 75 yards on 13 plays, using up close to four minutes on the clock and culminating with a two- yard scoring pass from Cato to Wilson to knot the score at 35-35.
Midway through the third quarter, the Pirates responded with a five-yard TD run by Reggie Bullock to regain the lead once again.
From there, a seesaw battle ensued with the visitors drawing close with a 24-yard field goal by Justin Haig. Less than four minutes later, the Herd again assumed the lead after backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel raced 51 yards to the end zone, giving the Herd a 45-42 advantage with 11:12 remaining in regulation.
ECU knotted the score with a 39-yard field goal by Warren Harvey midway through the fourth. The teams then traded touchdowns in the final minutes. Essray Taliaferro scored a one-yard run for the Herd before Carden tossed a six-yard TD toss to a leaping Danny Webster in the back of the end zone with just four seconds left on the clock to send the game into overtime tied at 52-52.
Carden and the Pirates wasted no time asserting themselves in the first extra session as he hit Andrew Bodenheimer just shy of the goal line on the first play from scrimmage, the wideout then stepped into the end zone to give the hosts and early advantage.
Unfortunately, there was no celebration for the Pirates before Wilson then reeled in a four-yard TD pass from Frohnapfel to tie the meeting up yet again, this time at 59-59.
Marshall had the first crack on offense in the second overtime, but Taliaferro had the ball stripped and it was recovered by ECU's Derrell Johnson.
The Pirates then went to work, knowing they only needed a score of any kind to pick up the win. The team maneuvered the ball through the red zone and down at the goal line Carden called his own number and even though he was initially stopped, he lunged once more in order to break the plane of the goal line for the game-winner.
Entering the week ranked second in the nation in passing with 360.2 ypg, the Herd finished with 419 yards through the air and 633 yards of total offense which exceeded the team's average on the season of 525.3 ypg.
The Pirates needed the victory in order remain in the race for the top spot in the East Division of Conference USA. The team is currently atop the division, but must still await the result of the UCF/UAB meeting on Saturday in order to determine the final order of finish.
11/23 19:14:28 ET
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