McNeill said not stopping UCF was more of a problem.
"Our defense has been getting people off the field all year, but you got to give some credit to UCF. They did a very good job," McNeill said.
Early on it looked as if the Pirates were headed for a romp, methodically marching 75 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the night to take a 7-0 lead.
Carden was efficient in the air throughout, going 6 for 7 for 40 yards passing on the drive. ECU also converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield to keep the series alive.
It was the first time this season that the Pirates have scored first in a game. Entering Thursday, UCF's defense had also only allowed seven points all season in the first quarter.
UCF went three and out on its first touch of the night, and ECU's offense needed just one more play to put the Knights in a 14-0 hole, this time via Carden's 76-yard strike down the sideline to Justin Hardy.
The fast-paced scoring continued on the ensuing kickoff, though, when UCF's McDuffie bounced outside and got free for a 99-yard kickoff return to get the Knights back in the game.
The back-to-back scores spanned just 25 seconds.
UCF then tied it a series later on a 4-yard touchdown run by Storm Johnson.
The Knights end a four-game home stand next Saturday when they host Southern Mississippi. The Pirates return home to host Memphis.
UCF coach George O'Leary said he was most proud of how his team responded after a tough home loss to Missouri last week.
"I think we have a team that perseverance-wise, is very resilient," O'Leary said. "You go down 14-0 right away; I think we have a group of good seniors that hung in there."
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower .