GREENVILLE, North Carolina — North Carolina spent the past two weeks trying to improve its tackling in hopes of slowing the East Carolina offense that rolled to big numbers in last year's lopsided win.
Instead, things got much, much worse for the Tar Heels.
Seventy points. 789 yards allowed. And too many missed tackles to count against a confident bunch that made the Tar Heels pay for just about every mistake.
"We were outcoached and outplayed," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "I take full responsibility for it."
Fedora had said his team missed 34 tackles in a win against San Diego State two weeks ago, so associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning said the team did more tackle-to-the-ground drills during its bye week to prepare for the Pirates. It didn't matter, though, as UNC gave up more points, yards and first downs than it had in any game before.
"Any way you cut it, there's nothing good about it," Fedora said. "There's nothing I can say that's going to make it any better or to ease or take the edge off of it. I mean, we got it handed to us tonight."
For the Pirates, Shane Carden threw for 438 yards and four touchdowns in the second straight performance against its instate rival.
True freshman Trevon Brown had two touchdown catches for the Pirates (3-1), including a 55-yarder less than a minute into the game. East Carolina took control with three second-quarter touchdowns, then got Zeek Bigger's 46-yard interception return immediately after the break to make this one look a lot like last year's blowout win against the Tar Heels (2-1) in Chapel Hill.
Now, coming off last week's upset win at Virginia Tech, East Carolina has won four straight against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
There was no shortage of high notes for East Carolina, starting with Breon Allen running for a career-high 211 yards and two touchdowns. Brown had 117 yards receiving in a bigger role after starter Cam Worthy was suspended two games for violating the school's code of student conduct.
And Carden — who accounted for six TDs for the second straight year — added two touchdown keepers after halftime as the Pirates stomped the gas and sped out of sight.
The previous records set by a UNC opponent were Utah's 669 yards in 2004 and Louisville's 69 points in 2005. The Pirates blew past both of those totals and came within four points of matching a program scoring record set in 1959.
UNC's offense found little rhythm otherwise behind starting quarterback Marquise Williams and backup Mitch Trubisky. The defense, meanwhile, continued the tackling problems it had against San Diego State two weeks ago and let the Pirates go wherever they wanted — the worst moment possibly being Allen's 44-yard touchdown run on a 3rd-and-28 play in the second quarter.
Things won't get easier for the Tar Heels. They travel to No. 22 Clemson next week, return home to play Virginia Tech then travel to No. 9 Notre Dame.
East Carolina is off next week before hosting SMU in its first American Athletic Conference game.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.