GREENVILLE, N.C. - Redshirt freshman Kurt Benkert completed 10-of-12 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown to spearhead the offensive effort, while a surging defensive unit tallied seven tackles for lost yardage on the other side of the ball during East Carolina's second intra-squad scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The controlled contest, which was played under sunny skies and in seasonal temperatures, consisted of approximately 50 plays featuring the top three levels of the program's depth chart.
Pirate quarterbacks combined to complete nearly 80 percent of their passes as Benkert, senior Shane Carden and junior Jonathon Weymann connected on 23-of-29 attempts for 302 yards and all three of the contest's scores.
“I’m proud of the progress we made from Monday’s scrimmage to today," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "You can see continuity on both sides. I think Shane and Kurt are both getting used to their receivers. I thought we did some good things and there were some things that are correctable."
Despite a sharp passing game and a turnover-free performance, ECU's offensive unit was also slowed by five penalties and a defense that was frequently able to work its way into the backfield and shut down a running attack.
Defensively, outside linebackers Montese Overton and Reece Speight contributed team-best four-tackle outings. Overton, a junior, was credited with three hits behind the line of scrimmage that netted a loss of 19 yards - 15 coming on a pair of sacks. Speight, a sophomore, also added an 11-yard loss on a quarterback drop when he chased down Benkert during the latter stages of the scrimmage.
After surrendering an average of eight yards per carry during Monday's contest, coordinator Rick Smith's unit bounced back by allowing only 2.0 yards per attempt by Pirates' running backs corps Saturday.
“Defensively, the leaders are those backers," McNeill said. "Montese Overton, Maurice Falls, Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams are going to have a chance to be four of the best we’ve had here. They all did a good job up front and I think our secondary is really jelling together, and that’s all due to Rick and his teaching philosophy.”
Benkert, who enjoyed a run of seven consecutive completions that totaled 94 yards to open his day, found sophomore DaQuan Barnes on a seven-yard scoring strike to finish his first possession. Carden, who completed 11-of-14 passes for 108 yards, also engineered a successful drive that was capped by six-yard TD toss to junior Bryce Williams. Weymann made the most of his one possession by completing both pass attempts, including a 49-yarder to true freshman Curtis Burston for a score.
Burston (four receptions for 86 yards), Barnes (3-35), Williams (3-21) and senior Justin Hardy (3-59) topped a group of 10 pass catchers that averaged 13.1 yards per reception.
East Carolina will open its third and final full week of spring work Monday with a pad session beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Hight Field inside the Cliff Moore Practice Complex.
NOTES: In addition to DB DaShaun Amos (right ankle), NT Terry Williams (right ankle) and TE Darren Dowdell (left leg), DL Demetri McGill (ill) and IWR Jimmy Williams (right shoulder; injured during Friday's practice) also sat out the scrimmage.
SPRING NO. 2 SCRIMMAGE STATS
RUSHING: Chris Love (1-12), Breon Allen (3-9), Jonathon Weymann (1-4), Marquez Grayson (7-1), Shane Carden (1-<-10>), Kurt Benkert (4-<-17>). Totals –– 17-<-1> (-0.1 ypr), 0 TD.
PASSING: Kurt Benkert (12-10-0, 126 yards, 1 TD), Shane Carden (14-11-0, 108 yards, 1 TD), Jonathon Weymann (2-2-0, 68 yards, 1 TD), Justin Hardy (1-0-0). Totals –– 29-23-0, 302 yards, 3 TD (79.3%).
RECEIVING: Curtis Burston (4-86, 1 TD), Justin Hardy (3-59), DaQuan Barnes (3-35, 1 TD), Bryce Williams (3-21, 1 TD), Davon Grayson (3-18), Cedric Thompson (2-30), Chris Hairston (2-15), Marquez Grayson (1-27), Isaiah Jones (1-8), Breon Allen (1-3). Totals –– 23-302, 3 TD
TACKLES: Reece Speight 4 (TFL/-11 yards, sack/-11 yards), Montese Overton 4 (3 TFL/-19 yards, 2 sacks/-15 yards), Zeek Bigger 3, Josh Hawkins 3, Chrishon Rose 3 (QBH), Christian Simmons 3, Ty Anderson 3 (TFL/-6 yards, sack/-6 yards), Dayon Pratt 2 (TFL/-1 yard), Cameron White 2 (TFL/-1 yard), Lamar Ivey 2, Terrell Richardson 2, Joe Allely 2, Brandon Williams 2, Rocco Scarfone 1, Travis Phillips 1, Travon Simmons 1 (PB), Kirk Donaldson 1, Randall Anderson 1, Johnathon White 1.
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 46-301 (6.5 ypp)
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 7-12 (58.3%) – Shane Carden (4-5), Kurt Benkert (2-6), Jonathon Weymann (1-1)
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 0-1 (00.0%) – Shane Carden (0-1), Kurt Benkert (0-1)
PENALTIES: 7 (5/OFFENSE – 2 false start, 2 holding, 1 ineligible receiver; 1/DEFENSE – offside; 1/SPECIAL TEAMS - offside)
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES)
Shane Carden – 5 first downs, 1 TD (downs, TD)
Kurt Benkert – 6 first downs, 1 TD (TD, downs, downs, downs)
Jonathon Weymann – 2 first downs, 1 TD (TD)
SCORING: TDs – 3
DaQuan Barnes 7-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Warren Harvey PAT)
Curtis Burston 49-yard pass from Jonathan Weymann (Harvey PAT)
Bryce Williams 6-yard pass from Shane Carden (Harvey PAT)