GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) — On a dreary Saturday morning with occasional light rain making for slick conditions on Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the East Carolina defense managed to shine during the Pirates' second scrimmage of the spring.
In a live action portion of the scrimmage lasting just under one hour, the defense surrendered three touchdowns and three field goals, but kept the offense off the board on 11 other possessions. They also came up with one fumble recovery and three interceptions, including one by Myles Berry to end the day.
"The defense definitely had the energy, and we kept it rolling throughout the scrimmage," said defensive end Chance Purvis, who finished with six tackles, including a pair of sacks among his four tackles for loss.
Daniel Charles and Jaren Rainey had the other two interceptions, and Xavier Smith had a fumble recovery on a botched handoff. The offense didn't get on the board until a 45-yard pass from Reid Herring to Jsi Hatfield on the fourth series, with the next score coming five possessions later on a 31-yard field goal by Jake Verity, who also had kicks of 36 and 41 yards as he went 3-for-3 on the day.
It was a continuation of a good week for the defense in particular and the entire team as a whole. Head coach Mike Houston was pleased overall with what he saw.
"I thought there was a lot of improvement from last week in some areas that you would hope to see improvement," said Houston, whose team has three workouts left in the spring, including the Purple-Gold Game at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday. "I thought we did a much better job with pre-snap penalties, even penalties within the play. We had very few flags (4) today compared to last week, so that was positive to see.
"I thought we really made some pretty steady improvement this week defensively. I thought we did a pretty good job defending the run today, and at the same time, I felt like our offensive line really came off the ball and came downhill pretty good, so it was a very competitive scrimmage."
The second pick, by Charles, ended what had been a good drive by an offense led by Holton Ahlers. Taking over at their own 2, the Pirates gained quick breathing room with a 4-yard run by Darius Pinnix and a 14-yard pass to Deondre Farrier. A dump-off pass to Hussein Howe advanced the ball out to near midfield, where Charles got his interception on a third-and-5 play.
"I had perfect positioning on my receiver, but then I saw when the quarterback rolled out there was another receiver going under, so I just jumped the route," he said. "He overthrew it, and it just landed in my hands."
"I'll say this, we finally made a couple of plays on the ball in the secondary," Houston added. "Daniel Charles made a really nice interception about midway through the scrimmage. I've been talking him to about it — our free safety usually makes plays down the field, so it was nice to see him do that."
Howe was the leading rusher, totaling 56 yards and one touchdown. His touchdown came during red-zone work late in the scrimmage and was set up by a nifty 17-yard completion from Ahlers to Farrier on third-and-10 on the previous play.
Farrier was the leading receiver with four catches for 49 yards.
The final score of the day was the 41-yard field goal by Verity during a two-minute drill.
"I was pleased right there at the end in the two-minute drill with our offense being able to operate and get a field goal in a situation where we were down two," Houston said. "That's how we ended the scrimmage, with that two-minute situation. The second defense got an interception (from Berry) at the end of the scrimmage, so that was positive."
While the wet conditions were probably a bit unexpected and certainly less-than-ideal, Houston said that being forced to adjust will help the Pirates later on.
"These were challenging weather conditions, obviously, especially for the offense with the moisture and slick conditions on the field," he said. "You can't control those things, so you have to get prepared to thrive in those situations. It's a great learning experience for our offensive players, and really for our whole team, because chances are we're going to have a game like that this fall."
The drive toward the end of the spring period is shifting into even higher gear now, with practices Wednesday and Friday followed by a return to Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in one week for Houston's first Purple-Gold Game.
"No. 1, I hope we have a huge crowd," he said. "I look forward to the Pigskin Pigout barbeque contest and getting to meet a lot of our alums and fans. I hope it's a very enjoyable day for all of our alumni and anybody that's here to enjoy the day with us.
"As far as the game goes, I want to see a really competitive ballgame. We're going to have some stakes that we're going to put on the line for the game with our winners' dinner we'll eat the week following the spring game. The losing team will serve the winning team dinner, so we'll have a little bit to put on the game. And we're going to play a regulation game, modified a little bit. It'll be a four-quarter game with something on the line, and I hope to see a really competitive matchup."
- Joe Corley
ECU'S 2019 SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Next Workout: Wednesday, April 10 (8-10 a.m.)
Remaining Workouts: April 12, April 13 (Purple-Gold Game, 1:30 p.m.)