The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, Shane Carden and Kurt Benkert, each turned in solid outings – they went 19-of-28 for 193 yards and three touchdowns – and several of the team's playmakers found the end zone in the 55-play scrimmage. And almost equally as important, the Pirates didn't turn over the ball.
However, it wasn't all about the offense. ECU's first-team defense didn't allow a touchdown Saturday and according to second-year defensive coordinator Rick Smith, the unit allowed just one score in the team's three scrimmages combined.
"Good plays, big hits and stay off the quarterbacks," were the brief highlights in the eyes of ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill.
|Kurt Benkert was 9-for-13 for 133 yards and two touchdowns.|
Not too long after, the first-team reached pay-dirt. Carden completed a methodical drive down the field with a one-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Bryce Williams, who had to make a spectacular one-handed grab to haul it in.
After the score, Williams lobbed an alley-oop pass to his fellow classmate, Carden, who failed to complete the dunk over the goal post. This type of celebration would be a penalty if done in a regular season game, but is common in a more laid-back setting like the spring game.
"I told my receivers that it was my last spring game so I wanted to have a little fun with it," said Carden. "I can jump, but I can't get too high up … That's just us. We're out here having a good time, but we're competing as well. I think this team has done a great job all spring of balancing that."
There was no better example of the high-compete level than on the scrimmage's final play. As red-shirt sophomore DaQuan Barnes hauled in a 30-yard touchdown, defensive back Nate Mays came over the top and laid into him. Barnes was down for a moment, got up slowly, but appeared to be alright.
"That's football," Smith said of the play. "You just tell him to next time be careful, but you don't want to pull the reins back and have him be afraid to hit somebody."
Each of ECU's four running backs supplied noticeable contributions and made it clear, especially if done by committee, that they are capable of making up most of the yards that Vintavious Cooper gained last season. Walk-on Chris Love made arguably the biggest play of the day with his 71-yard touchdown run in the second half.
"I thought all four of them had some good, tough runs," said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. "I think it shows a little of the depth that we have there. We've got some nice talent there and we're getting ready to add Anthony Scott and Cory Hunter to the mix, which we're excited about."
After Monday's workout, which is a make-up date due to rain out, the Pirates will look ahead to the summer. The coaches won't be able to work hands-on with the players during this period as most of their work will be done in the weight room with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Connors.
But for today, even if it is just for one day, the fans were able to enjoy the "game" for what it was: football.
RUSHING: Chris Love (2-79, 1 TD), Chris Hairston (6-44), Marquez Grayson (4-22), Jimmy Williams (1-17), Breon Allen (3-12), Jamal Tillman (1-1), Kurt Benkert (3-<-17>). Totals –– 20-158 (7.9 ypr), 1 TD.
PASSING: Kurt Benkert (13-9-0, 133 yards, 2 TD), Shane Carden (15-10-0, 60 yards, 1 TD), Jonathon Weymann (4-4-0, 22 yards), Jason Connella (2-1-0, 30, 1 TD), Justin Hardy (1-0-0, 0 yards). Totals –– 35-24-0, 245 yards, 4 TD (68.6%).
RECEIVING: Jimmy Williams (3-54, 1 TD), DaQuan Barnes (3-47, 1 TD), Isaiah Jones (3-31), Cedric Thompson (3-29), Bryce Williams (3-10), Chris Hairston (2-23), Justin Hardy (2-21), Jonathan Stanley (2-11), Cam Worthy (1-10, 1 TD), Davon Grayson (1-6), Curtis Burston (1-3). Totals –– 24-245, 4 TD
TACKLES: Josh Hawkins 5, Dayon Pratt 5 (TFL/-2 yards), Maurice Falls 4 (2 TFL/-8 yards, 1.0 sacks/-5 yards, QBH), Nate Mays 3, Randall Anderson 3, Johnathon White 3 (3 TFL/-16 yards, 1.5 sacks/-14 yards), Fred Presley 3 (2 TFL/-13 yards, 2 sacks/-13 yards), Rocco Scarfone 3, Terrell Richardson 2, Domonique Lennon 2, Joe Allely 2, Devaris Brunson 2, Detric Allen 1 (PB), Dashawn Benton 1, Blake Norwood 1, Cody Purdie 1, Pat Green 1, Desi Brown 1, Trevian Hicks 1, Christian Simmons 1, Drayvon Fairley 1, Montese Overton 1, Ty Anderson 1.
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 55-403 (7.3 ypp)
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 4-9 (44.4%) – Benkert (2-5), Connella (1-1), Carden (1-3)
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 1-1 (100.0%) – Carden (1-1)
PENALTIES: 1 (0/OFFENSE; 1/DEFENSE – unnecessary roughness)
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES):
Kurt Benkert – 9 first downs, 2 TD (TD, punt, punt, TD)
Shane Carden – 6 first downs, 1 TD (punt, TD)
Jonathan Weymann – 3 first downs, 1 TD (TD)
Jason Connella – 2 first downs, 1 TD (TD)
SCORING: TDs –5, FG – 0, PATs (5-5)
Jimmy Williams 45-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Warren Harvey PAT)
Bryce Williams 1-yard pass from Shane Carden (Warren Harvey PAT)
Cam Worthy 10-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Shawn Williams PAT)
Chris Love 71-yard run (Connor Torruella PAT)
DaQuan Barnes 30-yard pass from Jason Connella (Warren Harvey PAT)
Worth Gregory (2-97 – 48.5 ypp)
Davis Plowman (2-96 – 48.0 ypp)