East Carolina's special teams play and defensive unit headlined the Pirates' final full intra-squad scrimmage of the preseason Friday afternoon in what head coach Skip Holtz otherwise labeled as a sluggish effort at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
In a game which served as a dress rehearsal for ECU's season opener at Virginia Tech next week, the special teams squad accounted for most of the scoring during the afternoon as Ben Hartman drilled field goals from 53, 37 and 44 yards out and Chris Johnson returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Different levels of the defensive depth chart forced three turnovers and combined to hold the offense to just a three-of-19 third down conversion rate and just two touchdowns.
"The last scrimmage is in the books," Holtz said. "It was like watching two old men fish, in that it wasn't too exciting and not a whole lot to it. The guys are tired and have been going at it hard and it was hot, and I thought we looked a little sluggish out there. Last week they were fired up with enthusiasm, talking to one another and then this week we start classes with the continued heat and I think that we just weren't ready today."
The Pirates' top three quarterbacks on the two-deep, sophomores Rob Kass and Brett Clay, along with junior Patrick Pinkney, combined to complete 19-of-38 passes for 159 yards. Pinkney posted the trio's only scoring toss of the day, connecting with Phillip Henry on a 25-yarder early during the scrimmage, while Clay contributed the highest yardage total with 73 in 20 pass attempts.
Projected possible starters Dominique Lindsay (9-35) and Chris Johnson (8-25) were among the game's top rushers, picking up a combined 60 yards, while Brandon Simmons accounted for the only ground score of afternoon when he plunged into the endzone from one-yard out.
"Offensively we are just trying to find out which strengths we are going to highlight," Holtz continued. "Over the past two years we've had a quarterback that we could put a saddle on and ride him and the receivers when we were in trouble. Right now we don't have any of that. So, we will evaluate the film and start putting the right personnel on the field that will help us move the ball up and down the field."
Defensively, end C.J. Wilson and linebacker Fred Wilson notched a scrimmage-high seven stops each. In all, the Pirates were credited with a total of seven hits behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack by end Marcus Hands. Emmanuel Davis and Lorenzo Osborne picked off passes while Dekota Marshall recovered the game's only fumble.
"On the defensive side of the ball, we are doing some good things," Holtz added. "We appear to be playing solid fundamental football and we know what our assignments are and that's encouraging."
The Pirates will take Saturday off before heading into game week preparations Sunday prior to their season opener against the Hokies Sept. 1 at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.