ECU Football holds first scrimmage on ninth spring practice

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – Sunny skies and pleasant temperatures greeted East Carolina on Saturday morning as the Pirates conducted their first scrimmage of the spring on Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Featuring 16 possessions starting at various points on the field, the workout took about 80 minutes.

"I did think our effort was really good, and I thought we did a lot of good things, too," said head coach Mike Houston, whose team has six more workouts to go in the spring. "It was good to be able to get out here in game situations and be able to operate for an extended period of time with officials, coaches in the box and different people on the sidelines, so it was a really good experience."

As would be expected, the units on each side of the ball had their highlights. The offense cashed in with four touchdowns and three field goals, but the defense countered by forcing three turnovers and posting an impressive goal-line stand, stuffing runs by Darius Pinnix three consecutive times from inside the 1.

"We had a lot of game situations all throughout the day," Houston said. "There were lots of positives and some negatives. I talked to the players (afterward) about we've got to continue to be coachable and we have to really stress creating more positive habits because, really, that's what it is. You look at some of the mistakes we made, they're habits, the same things I saw at times on film from last year and the same things we're trying to correct right now. We have to really stress positive habits."

Offensively, quarterbacks Holton Ahlers, Reid Herring and Bryan Gagg combined to go 16-for-33 for 214 yards and two touchdowns — one each to Deondre Farrier and Tay Williams — with one interception. Pinnix got the bulk of the carries for a rushing attack that accounted for 153 yards and two scores as he had 18 rushes for 59 yards and a 5-yard touchdown. Trace Christian had the other score, a 3-yard run, as he carried six times for 23 yards.

Ahlers, who was 5-for-15 for 102 yards, also ran five times for 35 yards. One of those was a nice long pickup down the middle that was whistled dead on contact and possibly could've gone for much more yardage.

"I thought we were really good (in the running game) early, but I thought the defense responded and won that matchup late," Houston said. "We'll look at the film and see why that was happening. But I did see both sides rise up at different times."

Pinnix showed off a little more speed than he had in the past, most notably on a 28-yard gain as he cut back across the field from right to left and got deep into the secondary before being taken down at the defensive 35 yard line.

"We competed every play, both offense and defense, and that's a plus," Pinnix said. "Our offensive line is amazing. There are big holes everywhere you go, and I really appreciate them."

Leroy Henley totaled 81 yards on four catches, one being a 25-yarder that set up the touchdown run by Pinnix. Nine Pirates had receptions, also led by Maceo Donald (3-16), Tyler Snead (2-40) and Andre Pegues (2-9). Farrier, Jonathan Johnson, Nate Clark, Duce Fuller and Williams had one each.

Chance Purvis led the defense with eight stops, including two for lost yardage. Davondre Robinson stepped up with seven tackles, Alex Turner had a pair of TFLs among his six tackles, and Michael Witherspoon had four pass-breakups. Alex Angus had the interception and he forced a fumble. Nolan Johnson also was credited with a strip and a fumble recovery, and Juan Powell had the other loose ball pickup.

"We've got a lot of young guys who are coming out and working every day, and they're looking really good," Turner said. "They're running around, flying, fitting their gaps and doing the best they can. I definitely feel good about this team."

With the Southside Renovation — now looking more like an impressive new facility nearing completion than a construction zone — behind him as he spoke, Houston harped on what it's going to take to continue improving.

"I think the biggest positive is the players continue a desire to get better, to get things fixed," said Houston, whose team was flagged 17 times for penalties (nine of offense, eight on defense). "There's so much in this scrimmage today that when you talk about things that cause you to win and things that cause you to lose, there's so many things that just stand out as great teaching points. If we're going to get this thing turned, we've got to create positive habits in those areas, whether it be turnovers, pre-snap and post-snap penalties, or just execution things. We have to create positive habits to win ballgames."

- Joe Corley

SPRING SCRIMMAGE NO. 1 STATISTICS
RUSHING: Darius Pinnix (18-59, 1 TD), Holton Ahlers (5-35), Trace Christian (6-23, 1 TD), Tay Williams (4-11), Bryan Gagg (3-10), Mydreon Vines (1-8), Cam Coleman (2-4), Reid Herring (1-4), Duce Fuller (3-1), Hussein Howe (2-<-2).>Totals –– 45-153 (3.4 ypr), 2 TD.

PASSING: Holton Ahlers (5-15-1, 102 yards, 1 TD), Reid Herring (7-12-0, 74 yards, 1 TD), Bryan Gagg (4-6-0, 38 yards). Totals –– 16-33-1, 214 yards, 2 TD.

RECEIVING: Leroy Henley (4-81), Maceo Donald (3-16), Tyler Snead (2-40), Andre Pegues (2-9), Deondre Farrier (1-21, 1 TD), Jonathan Johnson (1-21), Nate Clark (1-18), Duce Fuller (1-5), Tay Williams (1-3, 1 TD). Totals –– 16-214, 2 TD

TACKLES: Chance Purvis 8 (2 sacks, 3 TFL/-16), Davondre Robinson 7 (TFL/-5), Alex Turner 6 (2 TFL/-4), Heath Parker 5, Nolan Johnson 3 (FF, FR), Ja'Quan McMillian 3, Khalil Barrett 3 (TFL/-2), Daniel Charles 3, Chandon Hickerson 3 (2 TFL/-7), D'Angelo McKinnie 3, Damel Hickman 2, Colby Gore 2, Myles Berry 2, Xavier Smith 2, Delvontae Harris 2, Aaron Ramseur 2, Damani Harrison 2 (TFL/-6), Dorian Hardy 2, Michael Witherspoon 1 (4 PBU), Alex Angus 1, (INT, FF, PBU), Da'Andre Beverly 1, Juan Powell 1 (FR), Jaren Rainey 1, Jireh Wilson 1 (TFL/-2), Damir Faison 1, Trey Love 1 (TFL/-5), Jalen Price 1 (TFL/-4), Hozey Haji-Badri 1

PUNTING: Jonn Young (3-125, 41.7 ypp)

TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 78-367 (4.7 ypp)

QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART
Holton Ahlers - 12 first downs, 2 TD, 2 FG (downs, TD, TD, punt, INT, punt, FG, FG)
Reid Herring - 6 first downs, 2 TD, 1 FG (turnover, TD, punt, FGA, FG, TD)
Bryan Gagg - 3 first downs, 0 TD, 0 FG (turnover, FGA)

FUMBLES/LOST: 2/2

INTERCEPTIONS 1 (Alex Angus/no return)

PENALTIES: 17 (9/offense, 8/defense)

SCORING:
TD – 4
Darius Pinnix 5-yard run (Jake Verity kick)
Trace Christian 3-yard run (Jake Verity kick)
Deondre Farrier 21-yard pass from Holton Ahlers (Jake Verity kick)
Tay Williams 3-yard pass from Reid Herring (Jake Verity kick)

FG – 3-of-5
Jake Verity 17, 26, 35-yarders (missed 44, 52)

ECU'S 2019 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Monday, April 1 (8-10 a.m.)
Remaining Workouts: April 3, April 6 (scrimmage), April 8, April 10, April 13 (Purple-Gold Game, 1:30 p.m.)