GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina's top three running backs on its spring depth chart averaged a combined 8.0 yards per carry, while the defense tallied four turnovers to highlight the Pirates' first spring scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Monday afternoon.
The controlled contest, which was played in near-perfect conditions with temperatures in the high-60s, consisted of 10 total possessions.
"It was good to be able to get the scrimmage in today in these great conditions," fifth-year head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "The first time you step into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is always fun. Overall, it was a good 60-minute scrimmage where both sides of the ball made some plays."
Redshirt freshman Marquez Grayson, who led all ball carriers with 58 yards on seven carries, scored the game's lone touchdown with an 11-yarder in the second half. Senior Breon Allen added 29 yards on just three attempts and junior Chris Hairston contributed 25 yards on four runs.
Three quarterbacks - primarily senior Shane Carden and redshirt freshman Kurt Benkert, along with junior Jonathon Weymann - took turns guiding ECU's offensive unit during the 60-play contest and combined on a 21-of-38, 238-yard passing effort. Two of the 21 completions surpassed 30 yards as Carden and Benkert found sophomore Jimmy Williams and senior Justin Hardy with 34 and 35-yarders, respectively.
Carden topped all passers with a 13-of-22, 133-yard performance, while Benkert completed seven-of-14 throws for 100 yards.
The Pirate defense picked off three passes and recovered a fumble to halt drives, and limited the offense to just a 4-of-12 success rate on third down. Senior inside linebacker Brandon Williams, senior safety Lamar Ivey and junior cornerback Josh Hawkins each recorded pass thefts, while redshirt freshman safety Travon Simmons was credited with a fumble pickup.
"Defensively, we did a good job of playing 11-man football," McNeill added. "I thought our pursuit to the ball was good and the secondary, although young, did a great job forcing turnovers."
In addition to Williams’ and Hardy's big gainers, senior Cam Worthy was on the other end of a 21-yard pass from Benkert to account for one of his co-team-high four receptions. Sophomore Isaiah Jones also snared four grabs, totaling 34 yards. Hardy topped all pass-catchers in yardage with 57 on three receptions.
Sophomore inside linebackers Cameron White (five tackles) and Devaris Brunson (four) turned in notable efforts to lead a defensive charge that included seven "quick whistle" sacks - two each by Williams and junior outside linebacker Montese Overton.
"We are young on the offensive line, but I thought they got a lot of good looks from our experienced defensive guys up front, and adjusted well with the pressures they were given," McNeill said. "Coach (Rick) Smith really tested them with different blitzes, stunts and disguising coverages. We are only playing with eight guys up there right now, so I look at as a bonus that these men are getting extra reps."
The scrimmage featured six ball carriers and nine pass-catchers who averaged a combined 5.6 yards per play. East Carolina was whistled for four penalties, just one on the defensive side of the ball.
The Pirates will return to Hight Field and the Cliff Moore Practice Complex on Wednesday for its seventh workout of the spring.
SPRING NO. 1 SCRIMMAGE STATS
RUSHING: Marquez Grayson (7-58, 1 TD), Breon Allen (3-29), Chris Hairston (4-25), Chris Love (2-3), Kurt Benkert (3-<-7>), Shane Carden (3-<-10>). Totals –– 22-98 (4.5 ypr), 1 TD.
PASSING: Shane Carden (22-13-2, 133 yards), Kurt Benkert (14-7-1, 100 yards), Jonathon Weymann (2-1-0, 5 yards). Totals –– 38-21-3, 238 yards, 0 TD (55.3%).
RECEIVING: Cam Worthy (4-51), Isaiah Jones (4-34), Justin Hardy (3-57), Jimmy Williams (3-44), Cedric Thompson (2-26), DaQuan Barnes (2-9), Brandon Bishop (1-9), Davon Grayson (1-5), Bryce Williams (1-3). Totals –– 21-238, 0 TD
TACKLES: Cameron White 5 (PB), Devaris Brunson 4 (sack/-2 yards), Johnathon White 4 (QBH), Brandon Williams 4 (2 sacks/-12 yards; INT/0 yards), Terry Williams 4 (sack/-2 yards), Montese Overton 3 (2 sacks/-5 yards), DaShawn Benton 3 (FF), Zeek Bigger 2, Maurice Falls 2, Edward Fulp 2, Domonique Lennon 2, Cody Purdie 2, Dayon Pratt 2, Terrell Richardson 2, Reece Speight 2, Joe Allely 1, Detric Allen 1 (PB), Randall Anderson 1, Kirk Donaldson 1, Josh Hawkins (INT/0 yards; PB), K’Hadree Hooker 1, Blake Norwood 1, Frederick Presley 1 (sack/-3 yards), Rocco Scarfone 1, Travon Simmons 1 (FR), Lamar Ivey (INT/0 yards).
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 60-336 (5.6 ypp)
INTERCEPTIONS: 3 (Josh Hawkins, Lamar Ivey, Brandon Williams)
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 4-12 (33.3%) – Shane Carden (2-7), Kurt Benkert (2-4), Jonathon Weymann (0-1)
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 3-3 (100.0%) – Shane Carden (3-3)
PENALTIES: 4 (3/OFFENSE – 3 false start; 1/DEFENSE - offside)
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES)
Shane Carden – 7 first downs, (downs, turnover, turnover, turnover, downs)
Kurt Benkert – 7 first downs, 1 TD (downs, downs, TD, turnover)
Jonathon Weymann – 0 first downs (downs)
SCORING: TDs – 1
Marquez Grayson 11-yard run