After battling with on-and-off weather for most of the day, the East Carolina University football team found a way to display its growth and talent during its annual Purple-and-Gold spring game.
Head coach Mike Houston used a modified scoring system that made the game offense vs defense. Both teams could score based on many different factors on both sides of the ball that included first downs on offense and forcing three-and-outs on defense. Houston’s offense managed to outsmart the defense in the end and prevailed 71-36 in the end.
"You look at us today versus a month ago, and there's been tremendous improvement," Houston said per ecupirates.com. "As far as what I felt best about, I thought the consistent way in which the offense moved the ball was pleasing to see. We had minimal errors on that side of the ball. Probably the biggest negative for the defense is the biggest positive for the offense, and that's ball security. We did not force any turnovers on defense, but we did a good job of taking care of it on offense."
Both teams battled hard in the first quarter as the offense led by one at the end of the period. The offense began to make a little gap between itself and the defense to lead 31-18 at halftime. The offense continued to show its prowess, stretching the lead to 25 points in the fourth quarter 54-29 after incoming junior running back Darius Pinnix scored a touchdown on a seven yard run with 13 minutes left in the game.
Pinnix had another highlight play a few plays before that saw him carry several defensive players with him for eight yards on a fourth-and-2 situation. Pinnix finished the day with five carries for a total of 31 yards and one score while catching the ball two times in the game.
"Last year I don't think we would've made that fourth-and-short there at the end of the game," incoming sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers said per ecupirates.com. "I don't think we would've called that play. It's fourth-and-short and we're trying to put the ball in the end zone. To call a run play and get seven yards out of it is a big deal."
Ahlers had a strong day offensively, leading six of the 15 possessions the offense had and finished 10-for-19 on passes for 118 yards. One of those 10 completions included a 48-yard completion to redshirt freshman wide receiver Blake Proehl that saw the offense go up 42-27 in the third quarter. Incoming junior quarterback Reid Herring had a similar outing to Ahlers going 10-for-18 in passes for 100 yards.
Incoming senior running back Hussein Howe led the way for the Pirates in rushing by carrying the ball 15 times, getting 71 yards on the ground. Incoming sophomore wide receiver Tyler Snead led the way on the receiving end by catching four passes for 32 yards.
The defense on the other hand managed to force four turnovers and got the rest of its points off of sacks, fourth-down stops, forced punts, tackles for loss, pass breakups and three-and-outs. Incoming junior linebacker Aaron Ramseur led the way for the defense by getting nine stops on the day which included two stops that resulted in a loss of yards.
“The spring went well, and today was a continuation of that,” incoming junior defensive back Davondre Robinson said per ecupirates.com. “Everybody was in the right spot and communicating like we should be. I had two pass breakups, but I should've picked one of them off.”
Both sides showed fans what they have to offer after going to spring training. Houston said he and the coaching staff see what they have to work with at each position on the field, and now know what has to be done to improve for the upcoming fall season.
“I expect significant development between now and fall camp,” Houston said. “We need to be in much better conditioning shape. We have a chance to develop some of our young players this summer. And I'm telling you, (strength and conditioning coach John Williams) is as good as there is in his industry. He has a tremendous reputation, and I'm obviously a firm believer in him.”