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East Carolina scores late to knock off Virginia Tech

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — It was a scenario tailor made for East Carolina’s fast-paced spread offense. With 1:20 left, the Pirates had just enough time to claim a major upset at No. 17 Virginia Tech.

East Carolina scored in three plays, capping the drive with a 1-yard run by quarterback Shane Carden, in a 28-21 victory over the Hokies.

“We just kept saying, ‘We’re going to get one more. We’re going to get one more touchdown, and we’ll be good,'” Carden said. “We didn’t know when it was going to be. It happened a little later than we wanted, but we just kept believing.”

The win was in jeopardy after Virginia Tech completed a 21-point comeback on quarterback Michael Brewer’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Cam Phillips with 1:20 remaining, but Carden completed passes of 31 and 28 yards to wide receiver Cam Worthy on the ensuing drive and then punched the ball in for the winning score with 16 seconds left.

“We won’t flinch,” Carden said.

The Pirates broke a five-game losing streak to ranked teams. Their last win over a ranked opponent had been against South Carolina in 2011.

Carden broke the school record for career completions and career touchdowns Saturday. The senior completed 23 of 47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns.

Dominique Davis previously held the school marks for completions and touchdown passes in a career. Carden broke both records in the first quarter and now has 741 career completions and 63 career touchdown throws.

“He never loses sight of that commitment to the team concept,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said.

East Carolina wide receiver Cam Worthy had six catches for 224 yards. Bryce Williams, Trevon Brown and Isaiah Jones all had touchdown catches for the Pirates (2-1).

“They like to play man to man,” Worthy said. “I feel like I’m the best person in that situation.”

Brewer passed for 298 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 30-of-55 passing. Hokies tailback Marshawn Williams rushed for 74 yards and 17 carries.

The Pirates, who broke a four-game losing streak to the Hokies, claimed their third straight victory over an opponent from the ACC.

Carden did most of his damage in the first quarter as East Carolina racked up 205 of its 502 yards.

Virginia Tech (2-1) looked completely out of sorts at the start, only one week after a big road victory over Ohio State. The Hokies, who suffered their first home setback in September since their epic upset loss to James Madison in 2010, allowed 21 first-quarter points for only the second time in Frank Beamer’s 28 seasons as coach.

Virginia Tech has lost four of its last five games that have followed wins over ranked opponents.

“I thought we had all the respect in the world for East Carolina. We knew what kind of team they were and they just did a great job,” Beamer said.

East Carolina drove 75 yards on its opening drive and struck first with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Carden to tight end Bryce Williams.

The Pirates used two big plays to set up the touchdown — a 35-yard completion from Carden to wide receiver Jimmy Williams and then a fluky 22-yard catch and run by Bryce Williams. Hokies linebacker Deon Clarke swatted Carden’s pass in the air, and Williams pulled down the deflection and ran to Tech’s 4-yard line.

East Carolina went up 14-0 on Carden’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Brown with 10:32 remaining in the first quarter. The Pirates needed 56 seconds to drive for the score, with Carden’s 47-yard completion to Worthy doing the most damage. Worthy made a circus catch over cornerback Brandon Facyson on the play.

Carden connected with Jones for his third touchdown pass with 2:44 left in the first quarter.

Despite falling behind 21-0, the Hokies gave themselves a chance with a strong defensive performance in the final three quarters.

Virginia Tech held East Carolina scoreless in the second quarter despite the Pirates driving deep into the Hokies’ territory four times. The Hokies forced a fumble at their 1-yard line and forced an incompletion on fourth down from the Virginia Tech 11.

East Carolina also missed a field goal when Warren Harvey’s 37-yard attempt sailed wide right.

The Hokies got on the scoreboard right before halftime on Brewer’s 21-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Isaiah Ford.

Brewer hooked up with Ford again midway through the fourth quarter to cut the Pirates’ lead to 21-14.

NOTES: Virginia Tech starting DT Corey Marshall (ankle) did not dress for the game. Nigel Williams made his first career start in Marshall’s place. … East Carolina is 4-14 against teams from the five power conferences the last five years. … Of the Hokies’ 90 points, 72 have been scored by freshmen. … The Pirates struck for 12 plays of 20 yards or longer and six plays of 30 yards or longer.

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