ECU holds 2nd preseason football scrimmage
GREENVILLE, N.C. – With the season opener against visiting North Carolina A&T now just 14 days away, ECU took part in its final preseason scrimmage Saturday on Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Pirates did all situational work, going from the two-minute drill to team run, third-and-long, red zone and finishing with coming out, where the offense took over on its own 4-yard line. Overall, the offense fared much better in the run game than it did in the first scrimmage a week earlier, and especially in red-zone situations it showed off its big-play capability.
In fact, all three touchdowns occurred in the red zone. Starting quarterback Reid Herring connected with Blake Proehl for 25 yards and Deondre Farrier for nine on scores, while Kingsley Ifedi threw a touchdown pass of 13 to Leroy Henley.
"Defensively, we were in a lot of places to make plays in contested areas," head coach Scottie Montgomery said. "We just had some spectacular plays today from the offense. We've been seeing plays like that in camp, both offensively and defensively. Those receivers made some unbelievable spectacular catches."
The scores by Proehl and Henley, both redshirt freshmen, came on back-to-back possessions. Proehl's came in tight coverage in the end zone and elicited a huge reaction from his teammates on offense. Just a few minutes later, Henley made a tough catch-and-run for his score and got a similar reaction.
Other than a couple of procedure penalties and two sacks, it was positive day as far as offensive coordinator Tony Petersen was concerned.
"We ran the ball hard downhill and got some great runs from our running backs," he said. "Our wide receivers made plays on the outside. If people want to play us in tighter coverage or in one-on-one, we have to take advantage of that because we have the height and the depth at wide receiver and the skill at quarterback. If we can make those plays, it forces them into situations where we can run the ball in the lighter boxes."
Ifedi led the ground game with 26 yards on three rushes. Trace Christian had four rushes for 25 yards, including one gain of 15. Anthony Scott picked up 13 yards on three rushes. As a team, ECU had 81 yards on 17 carries, good for 4.8 per attempt.
"I thought we ran the ball a lot better," Montgomery said. "I thought we stayed on our double-teams a lot better in our interior. We had almost our complete offensive line out there working together today, so that was one thing that jumped out. We protected the quarterback a lot better."
Herring completed 10 of 22 passes for 190 yards, Ifedi was 6-for-11 for 67 yards, and Holton Ahlers was 3-for-9 for 15 yards.
"I thought we ran the ball pretty well and we threw the ball pretty well," Herring said. "We have a lot of receivers who can go and make plays, and that really helps. We have good running backs and they were making good cuts. The line was working their butts off, so that's really helping us."
Herring is going into the season as the clear No. 1 at quarterback.
"Reid has separated himself," Montgomery said. "I think the one thing that's really separated him is the time in the system. He gets us out of bad plays. He has the ability to stop tackles for losses just with his mind right now. We're growing Kingsley and Holton to that point, and they're already starting to do it, but that's third-year stuff. There's no question Reid has a great arm, but just getting us out of the bad plays, he does a good job of that."
Proehl had two catches on the day, with the other one being good for 31 yards as he led all receivers with 56 yards. Henley had six grabs for 51 yards, Trevon Brown had two for 41, and Tahj Deans had one for 32.
"We're pretty good at wideout and probably will be for a while with the guys that we've recruited and the guys that are here," Montgomery said. "A lot of people haven't seen them in a while, but Leroy Henley and Blake Proehl are good. Add them, Deondre Farrier and Tahj Deans to Trevon Brown, and we've been blessed here. Now we're finally getting to the point where we don't have one or two great ones, we have a lot of guys that can do the job in different situations."
The defense, which outside of the red-zone opportunities gave up just a 33-yard field goal by Caleb Pratt during the two-minute drill, got top performances by Ray Tillman (four tackles, one pass breakup), Michael Witherspoon (four tackles, one for loss), Myles Berry (three tackles, one sack) and Keyshawn Canady (three tackles).
"It was one of those kinds of days," defensive coordinator David Blackwell said. "We were really good in the two-minute drill, OK in the first-and-10 period, and our twos were really good on third down. But I was really disappointed in the red zone. I thought we were not good there. It was the worst we've been in the red zone. The offense took it to us.
"There was give and take, as there kind of has been all camp. It was a punch-counter-punch kind of day."
Montgomery had a more favorable assessment.
"Defensively we clogged up a lot of stuff on the inside," Montgomery said. "We have some things we need to clean up. Once we go back and look at it on tape, I would think our defense performed a little bit better than what we feel like just because of some of the plays that were made on the perimeter. But that's the ebb and flow of the game. When you have weapons outside and you get them the ball, things like that happen."
The Pirates finished camp in earnest Saturday. They will have a light workout on Sunday before shifting to game-week preparation with Tuesday's early morning practice.
- Joe Corley
SCRIMMAGE 2 STATISTICS
RUSHING: Kingsley Ifedi (3-26), Trace Christian (4-25), Anthony Scott (3-13), Reid Herring (2-10), Darius Pinnix (2-4), Hussein Howe (3-3). Totals –– 17-81 (4.8 ypr).
PASSING: Reid Herring (10-22-0, 190 yards, 2 TD), Kingsley Ifedi (6-11-0, 67 yards, 1 TD), Holton Ahlers (3-9-0, 15 yards) Totals –– 19-42-0, 272 yards, 3 TD (45.2%).
RECEIVING: Blake Proehl (2-56, 1 TD), Leroy Henley (6-51, 1 TD), Trevon Brown (2-41), Tahj Deans (1-32), Deondre Farrier (2-21, 1 TD), Mydreon Vines (2-19), Trace Christian (1-16), Terrell Green (1-14), Cam Marshmon (1-12), Anthony Scott (1-10). Totals –– 19-272, 3 TD.
TACKLES: Ray Tilman 4 (PBU), Michael Witherspoon 4 (TFL/-5 yards), Myles Berry 3 (sack/-7 yards, TFL/-7 yards, QBH), Keyshawn Canady 3, Bruce Bivens 2 (PBU), Kendall Futrell 2 (sack/-3 yards, TFL/-3 yards), Cannon Gibbs 2 (QBH), Colby Gore 2 (PBU), Marcus Holton, Jr. 2, Shawn James 2, Jalen Price 2, Aaron Ramseur 2, Corey Seargent 2, Michael Swift 2, Alex Turner 2, Daniel Charles 1, Nate Harvey 1, Damel Hickman 1, Nolan Johnson 1, Warren Saba 1 (PBU), Devon Sutton 1.
FUMBLES LOST: 0
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART:
Reid Herring – 9 first downs/2 TD
Kingsley Ifedi – 6 first downs/1 TD, 1 FG
Holton Ahlers – 3 first downs/0 TD
Caleb Pratt 33-yard field goal (2-minute drill)
Blake Proehl 25-yard pass from Reid Herring (redzone drill)
Leroy Henley 13-yard pass from Kingsley Ifedi (redzone drill)
Deondre Farrier 9-yard pass from Reid Herring (redzone drill)