GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina continued to wage position battles and fine tune its offensive and defensive schemes Saturday, closing its spring practice contact period with the Purple-Gold Game in front of 7,114 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
ECU’s ones and twos on the depth chart experienced the majority of the action, while the threes turned in an abbreviated segment at the end of the scrimmage. Collectively, East Carolina racked up 369 yards on 85 plays for an average of 4.3 yards per play.
"We went into the game thinking execution on all three sides of the ball," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "We had officials and fans in the stands which contributed to a game-like atmosphere. We were able to come out of it healthy. I like the progress of the team."
The Pirate quarterback corps finished the contest with 30 completions on 47 attempts for 248 yards. Junior Rio Johnson converted 17 of his 23 passes to lead the squad with 153 yards and was the only signal caller of the three to avoid a turnover. Redshirt freshman Cody Keith and senior Brad Wornick contributed 69 and 26 yards, respectively, with each having a drive ended via turnover. Johnson produced 11 of ECU’s 20 first downs while Keith added seven.
“I think you saw some good things on both parts of the quarterback battle,” McNeill added. “I thought there was a smooth operation there. Our offensive line did a very good job today against a defense that showed a lot of movement. I thought they did a good job working together as one today.”
Leading the East Carolina ground attack was redshirt freshman running back Chris Hairston, who was responsible for 52 of the Pirates’ 121 yards. Senior Reggie Bullock produced the only offensive touchdown of the game, finding the endzone from one yard out in the first half as part of a 25-yard effort on 11 rushes.
A quartet of receivers were responsible for most of the aerial yardage, with Justin Hardy (48), Reese Wiggins (47), Derrick Harris (38) and Dayon Arrington (32) combining for 16 catches and 165 yards. True freshman walk-on Chris Cacciola also experienced action in the contest, recording two receptions for 24 yards.
Redshirt freshman inside linebacker Zeek Bigger led all tacklers with eight stops, including one for a loss of two yards. The highlight defensively, however, came from sophomore safety Desi Brown, who recovered a fumble on a lateral pass by Brad Wornick and took it 32 yards to the endzone for the first score of the day.
Sophomore inside linebacker Brandon Williams was also active in the backfield, posting seven stops with one for a loss of two yards. In all, the defense recorded eight tackles for loss and a sack, as well as an interception by junior cornerback Adonis Armstrong on a tipped pass.
“I thought the defense played very good 11-man football,” McNeill remarked. “We’ll add some guys, but I really like this football team.”
As a unit, the offensive converted seven of its 20 third-down attempts (35 percent) while cashing in on two of three fourth-down conversion tries. The Pirates also punted four times with senior Phil McNaughton and junior Trent Tignor each receiving two opportunities. McNaughton held the upper hand with a 32.5-yard average as compared to a 23.5-yard per punt showing for Tignor.
A total of six offensive penalties were called in the contest - three of which were illegal procedure miscues. The officials also flagged the Pirates for two delay of game penalties and an illegal substitution.
East Carolina produced both of its touchdowns in the first half while adding a 24-yard field goal by junior Matt Millisor before the break. Sophomore Warren Harvey and freshman Shawn Williams would add 48 and 27-yard field goals in the second period to round out the scoring. Additionally, Harvey knocked through both of his PAT attempts.
“I thought the offense moved the ball well,” McNeill said. “There were situations we could have converted better. We also had some administrative penalties that we need to eliminate. We are very pleased with the progress of our defense and our offense did a good job of catching up today going against a defense that did a really good job executing.”
SPRING GAME STATISTICS
RUSHING: Chris Hairston (6-52), Reggie Bullock (11-25, 1 TD), Hunter Furr (5-15), Michael Dobson (3-15), Torrance Hunt, (5-11), Rio Johnson (3-7), Brad Wornick (4-3), Justin Hardy (1-<-7>). Totals –– 38-121, 1 TD (3.2 ypr).
PASSING: Rio Johnson (23-17-0, 153 yards), Cody Keith (18-9-1, 69 yards), Brad Wornick (6-4-0, 26 yards). Totals –– 47-30-1, 248 yards (63.8%).
RECEIVING: Justin Hardy (2-48), Reese Wiggins (6-47), Derrick Harris (4-38), Dayon Arrington (4-32), Chris Cacciola (2-24), Antonio Cannon (3-15), Hunter Furr (2-13), Zico Pasut (1-8), Michael Dobson (3-7),Torrance Hunt (1-7), Reggie Bullock (1-5), Andrew Bodenheimer (1-4). Totals –– 30-248.
TACKLES: Zeek Bigger 8 (TFL/-2 yards), Brandon Williams 7 (TFL/-2 yards), Cody Lyon 5, Montese Overton 5 (2 TFL/-12 yards), Kyle Tudor 5 (2 TFL/-8 yards), Adonis Armstrong 3 (INT, PB), Robert Huckabee 3, Lamar Ivey 3, Terrell Stanley 3, Terry Williams 3, Detric Allen 2, Chris Baker 2 (2 PB), Michael Brooks 2, Desi Brown 2 (FR/32-yard TD return ), Justin Dixon 2, Darian Harris 2, Thomas Lehman 2, Derrell Johnson 2, Domonique Lennon 2, Lee Pegues 2 (2 TFL/-8 yards, sack/-5 yards), Rocco Scarfone 2, Christian Simmons 2, Godfrey Thompson 2, Justin Venable 2, Terry Biles 1 (TFL/-4 yards), Maurice Falls 1 (PB), Joshua Hawkins 1, Ty Holmes 1, Jacobi Jenkins 1, John Lattimore 1, Jonathan White 1
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 85-369 (4.3 ypp)
INTERCEPTIONS/RETURN YARDAGE: 1/0
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 7-20 (35.0%) – Cody Keith (5-9), Rio Johnson (2-8), Brad Wornick (0-3)
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 2-3 (66.7%) – Rio Johnson (2-2), Brad Wornick (0-1)
PENALTIES: 6 (6/OFFENSE -3 illegal procedure, 2 delay of game, 1 illegal substitution; 0/DEFENSE)
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (COMPLETE DRIVES):
Rio Johnson – 11 first downs, 1 TD, 1 FG (TD, punt, FGA, punt, FG)
Cody Keith – 7 first downs, 2 FG (punt, TO, FG, FG)
Brad Wornick – 3 first downs (TO, end of half, downs, end of game)
TDs – 1, FGs – 3
Reggie Bullock 1-yard run (Warren Harvey PAT)
Matt Millisor – 24 FG
Shawn Williams – 27 FG
Warren Harvey – 48 FG
TDs – 1
Desi Brown 32-yard fumble return (Matt Millisor PAT)
Phillip McNaughton (2-65 – 32.5 ypp)
Trent Tignor (2-47 – 23.5 ypp)