Pirates Close Spring with Purple-Gold Game

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU closed the spring session on Saturday afternoon with the annual Purple-Gold Game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Kurt Benkert made a play during Saturday’s spring game that mirrored several of the ones his predecessor had pulled off on the same grass field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

It was on the offense’s sixth drive of the afternoon and, at this point, the East Carolina football team had yet provide much for the 4,852 fans in attendance to cheer about.

Initially, the play was broken from the snap as two rushers converged on the sophomore quarterback untouched, but Benkert improvised and broke away by rolling out of the pocket to his left.

Then he located his fellow classmate Trevon Brown down the field.

Benkert set his feet and let the deep ball fly, setting up an incredible catch by Brown, who established just enough positioning on freshman defensive back Corey Seargent to pull down the ball on the left sideline for a 45-yard completion at the nine yard-line.

“I know what Trevon is good at is getting the ball when it’s at its highest point,” Benkert said. “Corey was in good position, but he’s probably not as good at basketball,” a sport that Brown played well enough at New Hanover High School in Wilmington to attract some attention from college recruiters.

Two plays later, senior running back Chris Hairston was in the end zone for ECU’s first touchdown and on the offense’s next drive, Benkert worked efficiently down the field again for the Pirates’ second and final touchdown drive of the scrimmage.

Benkert finished 11 for 17 on his throws for 125 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to junior receiver Isaiah Jones. Junior Blake Kemp, Benkert’s closest competitor for the starting quarterback job, was 6 of 10 for 33 yards and accrued just three first downs.

Kurt Benkert launches a pass down the field.
(Rob Goldberg/ECU Media Relations)
However, newly appointed offensive coordinator Dave Nichol said he still hasn’t seen enough to name Benkert this starter yet, and that the rhythm of the offense isn’t where it needs to be yet.

“Not yet, but we’re getting there,” said Nichol, who went on to say he wasn’t worried about the team’s chemistry yet, referencing how sloppy the offense was at times during the spring last year with Lincoln Riley, Shane Carden and Justin Hardy in the mix. “I’m not too concerned about the fact that we’re not just ready to play in a BCS game today.”

Nevertheless, the offensive standout from Saturday’s spring game was not Benkert, Brown or any of the two players that reached the end zone.

Instead, it was junior receiver Brandon Bishop, who amassed 76 yards on a team-best five receptions, which included a pretty 30-yard catch on the sideline.

Bishop, a walk-on from nearby Snow Hill whose only collegiate catch was a 19-yard touchdown against North Carolina last year, has caught the attention of his teammates with his showing this spring.

“Everybody is sleeping on him,” said Benkert. “He’s a special player. He can do a lot of things that other people can’t and he’ll put his body in whatever position he needs to be to catch a ball.

“He’s a really good player and you’re going to see him make some big plays this fall, I promise.”

The offense racked up 302 yards on 68 plays (4.4 yards per play) in the scrimmage.

Sophomore speedster Anthony Scott led all the tailbacks with 55 rushing yards on six carries, while Tennessee transfer Derrell Scott, who will have to sit out this fall because of NCAA transfer rules, received a team-high 13 rushes for 37 yards and sophomore Marquez Grayson booked 23 yards on his five attempts.

Altogether, the Pirates’ five ball carriers on Saturday combined for 104 yards on 30 rushes.

On the other side of the ball, Seargent earned a scrimmage-high eight tackles, which doubled the amount of the next-best Pirate in takedowns (Zeek Bigger, four tackles). Third-year coordinator Rick Smith, who was not on the sidelines Saturday due to the passing of his mother in the morning, listed Seargent, a freshman, as a serious contender for the starting field cornerback position earlier this spring that is currently being held by senior Josh Hawkins.

Underclassmen defensive backs Nhyre Quinerly and Travis Phillips snagged both of ECU’s interceptions at the expense of the Pirates’ two walk-on quarterbacks, Ray Smith and Jason Connella.

ECU will begin its summer workouts with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors next month. No other coaches are permitted to work with the players until the start of fall camp, which is scheduled to kick off on Aug. 4.

Here are the full stats from Saturday:

RUSHING: Anthony Scott (6-55), Derrell Scott (13-37), Marquez Grayson (5-32), Chris Hairston (1-3, 1 TD), Quay Johnson (1-2), Ray Smith (2-<-7>), Blake Kemp (2-<-9>). Totals –– 30-113 (3.8 ypr), 1 TD.

PASSING: Kurt Benkert (17-11-0, 125 yards, 1 TD), Blake Kemp (10-6-0, 33 yards), Ray Smith (7-3-1, 16 yards), Jason Connella (4-2-1, 13 yards). Totals –– 38-22-2, 198 yards, 1 TD (57.9%).

RECEIVING: Brandon Bishop (5-76), Quay Johnson (3-5), Isaiah Jones (2-20), Davon Grayson (2-5), Jacen Murphy (2-5), Trevon Brown (1-44), Bryce Williams (1-15), Malik Gray (1-8), Steve Baggett (1-5), Jimmy Williams (1-5), Jonathan Stanley (1-5), Derrell Scott (1-3), Anthony Scott (1-2). Totals –– 22-198, 1 TD

TACKLES: Corey Seargent 8, Zeek Bigger 4 (TFL/-3 yards, sack/-3 yards), Travon Simmons 3, Kirk Donaldson 3 (TFL/-3 yards, sack/-3 yards), Cole Pickard 3, Cam White 3, Trevian Hicks 2 (TFL/-2 yards), Drew Turnage 2, Jordan Williams 2 (TFL/-2 yards), Drayvon Fairley 2 (TFL/-2 yards), Pat Green 2, Ray Tillman 2, Yiannis Bowden 2, Masaddiq Walton 2, Shaun James 2 (sack/-4 yards), Montese Overton 2 (TFL/-3 yards, PD), Terrell Stanley 2 (TFL/-1 yard), Demage Bailey 2, Bennett Boateng 2, Joe Allely 1 (sack/-6 yards), Dayon Pratt 1 (TFL/-3 yards), Dashawn Benton 1 (PD), Nhyre Quinerly 1 (INT), Travis Phillips 1 (INT), Bobby Fulp 1, Garrett Van Hoy 1, Mike Myers 1.

TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 68-311 (4.6 ypp)

FUMBLES/LOST: 0/0 INTERCEPTIONS: 2 (Nhyre Quinerly, Travis Phillips)

THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 4-16 (25.0%) – Kurt Benkert (1-4), Blake Kemp (1-5), Ray Smith (1-6), Jason Connella (1-1)

FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 2-2 (100.0%) – Kurt Benkert (1-1), Ray Smith (1-1)

PENALTIES: 5 (3/OFFENSE – 3 false start; 2/DEFENSE – 1 hands to face, 1 pass interference)

QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES):

Kurt Benkert – 9 first downs, 2 TD (downs, punt, TD, TD)

Blake Kemp – 3 first downs (punt, downs, downs, downs)

Ray Smith – 2 first downs (downs, punt, turnover)

Jason Connella –– 1 first down (turnover)

SCORING: TDs – 2, FG – 0, PATs (2-2)

Chris Hairston 3-yard run (Connor Torruella PAT)

Isaiah Jones 11-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Davis Plowman PAT)

PUNTING: Worth Gregory (2-101 – 50.5 ypp), Jim Squatriglia (1-32 – 32.0 ypp)

ATTENDANCE: 4,852


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