Coming into today, both North Carolina and East Carolina were very nearly ranked - UNC a little more so, just grabbing a #25 ranking in the USA Today poll. East Carolina was firmly in the "others receiving votes" category.
After today, it is very clear which team is deserving of not just their current ranking, but an even higher one come Sunday night. And it isn't the UNC Fightin' Scandals.
ECU needed only three plays to notch the first score of the game, but they needed a very strong performance from their defense - led by the "Swamp Monster"Terry Williams - just to maintain a one-point lead going into the second quarter. A Shane Carden interception gave the Tar Heels great field position and a one-play touchdown drive on a 45-yard pass from Ryan Switzer, which was sandwiched between two chip-shot field goals.
Unfortunately for UNC, this East Carolina offense is a lot like what Art Briles has going on at Baylor, where they are bound to get rolling eventually and you better hope to either stem the momentum or get your own offense rolling.
Carolina the Lesser managed to do neither. They managed another early second quarter touchdown to take a 20-14 lead, at which point it looked like their game of QB Roulette was paying off. What does a game of QB Roulette look like? Something like this, three minutes into the second quarter:
- Marquise Williams - 7 for 12, 72 yards
- Mitch Trubisky - 3 for 6, 37 yards
- Ryan Switzer - 1 for 1, 35 yards, TD
- Tommy Hibbard - 1 for 1, 29 yards, TD
So that's UNC starting QB Rymitchquise Switzskyams posting an 11-for-19, 144 yard, one TD performance to that point in the game, while Carden was a relatively pedestrian 9-for-17 for 174 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Oh, plus that whole "touchdown pass by the punter" thing.
And that's as good as it got for the Tar Heels.
East Carolina's running game began to put the screws to the Tar Heels, as Marquise Grayson busted a 30 yard run, and Breon Allen scored on another scamper of 44 yards, all of which gave Carden just enough space to find a few more targets, and by halftime he was 21-for-34 for 332 yards and two touchdowns. Not amazing, but enough that ECU held a 35-20 lead.
Zeek Bigger got himself a pick-six on the fourth play from scrimmage in the second half, and the rout was on. The Tar Heels would bounce back with a scoring drive of their own, but it was far too little, too late. The Pirates would rattle off four more plays of 20-plus yards, including Allen's 84-yard run to set up a score in the fourth quarter, and before you knew it, ECU was looking up at a 70-41 victory to run their season record to 3-1.
This game started off with a new record for home attendance for ECU, and ended with a new record for yards in a game at 789. I think it would be only fitting for them to sneak into the next released rankings, if only just barely. The Pirates will have next week off before having a run of games - at home against Southern Methodist and at South Florida - that sure looks like a 6-1 start just waiting to happen. We may have brought the American Athletic Conference race to a close already at this rate.