GREENVILLE, N.C. - The unveiling of the Pirates' newly-installed passing attack highlighted East Carolina's first intra-squad scrimmage of the spring practice period Saturday morning at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Sophomores Josh Jordan and Brad Wornick, along with redshirt freshman Rio Johnson each took turns guiding ECU's offensive unit during the 100-play contest, which featured game officials and was played in near-perfect weather conditions. The trio combined on a 47-of-71, 430-yard passing effort that netted three touchdowns and a field goal.
"In my opinion, I think we accomplished everything today that I planned," first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "I wanted to see how the players and coaches would react to officials in a simulated game situation. Then, I observed sideline organization as well as the rotation of different groups and I really liked the way that happened. I was also pleased with the way we executed both offensively and defensively.
"I thought we were really prepared for today and we did some special things out there," McNeill continued. "We like to take things in sequential steps and I was pleased with this step. I am looking forward to watching the film."
Forty-three of the 47 pass completions were less than 20 yards, including all three scoring tosses. Senior receiver Dwayne Harris, who finished the day with six catches for 59 yards, recorded short-yardage TD grabs of two and three yards from Wornick. Sophomore Dayon Arrington produced the Pirates' other score with a four-yarder from Johnson.
On the ground, redshirt freshman Michael Dobson led all rushers with 32 yards on just two carries while senior Jonathan Williams added 31 yards on eight attempts.
Wornick, who opened second half play by completing his first eight attempts, directed ECU's offense to a scrimmage-high 10 first downs while recording 146 yards on 16-of-25 passing. Jordan had 21, 23 and 33-yard tosses on the way to a 16-of-23, 170-yard performance, while Johnson added 114 yards on a 15-of-23 effort.
"We are still looking for consistency from our quarterbacks," McNeill added. "With that said, I think our guys are really listening to (offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley) well and absorbing everything he is teaching. This all takes time, but luckily we have seven days of spring practice left to continue to evaluate."
The Pirates converted 11-of-18 of their third-down conversions, often utilizing the passing game in medium to short-yardage situations. Three of 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman tight end/receiver Justin Jones' five catches came on third down, including a pivotal 21-yard pickup from Jordan. In all, Jones picked up a team-high 64 yards while senior T.J. Terrell added 51 yards on six catches to go along with Harris' production.
The defense forced two turnovers, which included an interception by junior linebacker Steve Spence and a fumble recovery by senior cornerback Travis Simmons. Junior safety Derek Blacknall and junior linebacker Matt Thompson topped all tacklers with eight stops each, while junior cornerback Emanuel Davis added seven hits and was credited with a pass breakup.
The contest featured seven ball carriers and 17 pass catchers who averaged a combined 5.6 yards per play.
"Our tempo and pace on offense are not where we want them right now," McNeill said. "For most teams, this tempo would be sufficient, but it is still a work in progress for us."
The Pirates open their third week of spring work Monday and will follow with practices Wednesday and Friday before conducting their second scrimmage next Saturday.
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