GREENVILLE, N.C. - Physical play and a strong performance by the Pirates' defense, most notably up front, highlighted East Carolina's second intra-squad scrimmage of the spring practice period Saturday morning at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The controlled contest, which featured game officials and was played in comfortable 60-degree temperatures under sunny skies, consisted of 14 possessions that included situational work inside the redzone.
The Pirates' defense tallied nine tackles for lost yardage, allowing just 1.6 rushing yards and 2.4 overall yards per attempt during the morning. Junior end Justin Dixon (2), sophomore nose tackle Terry Williams (2), junior end Lee Pegues and junior end John Lattimore keyed a dominating front line effort that produced six of the TFLs to help keep the offense out of the endzone on nine consecutive drives during the traditional portion of the scrimmage.
Dixon and junior inside linebacker Kyle Tudor, who also added a pair of stops for lost yardage, led all defenders with five tackles each, while senior nose tackle Michael Brooks chipped in with four. Senior cornerback Leonard Paulk paced the secondary with three hits and generated the game's only turnover by picking off a Brad Wornick pass on the third overall possession.
Junior Rio Johnson and redshirt freshman Cody Keith handled the majority of the snaps as each took turns guiding the Pirates' top two offensive units. Johnson completed nine-of-19 passes for 56 yards, while Keith was three-of-10 for 23 yards for a squad that was also hampered by five penalties that negated positive first down production most of the morning.
"We went about 60 plays and that was the number I had in my head," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "I thought the team's enthusiasm today was fantastic, but the biggest thing we need to keep working on are the penalties, especially the administrative ones."
While East Carolina's defense enjoyed much success outside of the 20-yard lines, the offensive unit converted both of its opportunities during the redzone phase of the scrimmage. Junior running back Hunter Furr, who led all rushers with 24 yards on seven carries, capped situational 18-yard drives with one and 12-yard ground scores. His last touchdown, and a Wornick-to-Justin Jones 15-yard pass, marked the longest plays of the contest.
"Today's focus was to establish some offensive flow in the middle of the field as well as putting each group in a stress situation, whether it was putting the defense in the redzone or making the offense drive the length of the field," McNeill added.
Sophomore placekicker Warren Harvey provided the special teams' highlight by drilling a 48-yard field goal to finish off Keith's last possession in good order.
East Carolina will open its fourth and final week of spring work Monday with a shells session beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.