The question of who will be the starting quarterback against James Madison University got even tougher, after East Carolina University capped its’ preseason camp off with a scrimmage where the offense stood out.
The quarterback competition between Gardner Minshew and Thomas Sirk is still up in the air after both athletes showed out in the final preseason practice inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The starter looks to be named even closer to the first regular season game than fans anticipated.
“We played a much cleaner scrimmage today, which you expect as camp goes along,” Head Coach Scottie Montgomery said. “Offensively we responded in a major way running the ball, I liked what I saw from Tyshon (Dye), Derrell (Scott) and Hussein (Howe) coming out of the backfield, and I thought our quarterbacks did a good job of taking care of the football for the most part.”
Minshew had a good day, passing for 156 yards on 11-of-16 attempts. Though he wasn’t the first of the two quarterbacks to score in the first-and-10 period, Minshew scored on his second and final possessions during his offensive period. Sirk was the first to score on the day with an eight yard scramble outside the red zone to score in the first part of the scrimmage and one interception. The two on-field coordinators combined for a total of 249 yards and 21 completions out of 32 passes for a 65.6 percent.
The backfield trio of Dye, Scott, and Howe has started to look like the vision second-year Montgomery envisioned in a run game. With the three running backs, Dye had the best day rushing for more than 60 yards to top all the other backs but could not find the endzone. Scott contributed to the effort with 38 yards on six rushes. Sirk was the only one to score a rushing touchdown on the day, leaving all running backs out of the endzone. Dye also showed his versatility catching a pass out the backfield to give him 67 total yards for the scrimmage. Both offensive touchdowns came from the two quarterbacks on rushing plays.
While Mydreon Vines had an outstanding first scrimmage with his new pass heavy team, catching 10 balls for 123 yards, he followed it up in the second scrimmage with an average stat line of seven catches for 63 yards. Jimmy Williams, who was absent in the first scrimmage, trailed Vines in receptions with four but topped him in yards with 88 on the day. Tahj Deans and Malik Gray both combined for five catches and 60 yards behind Vines and Williams.
Defense remained at a consistent level of play causing three turnovers in the session and their activeness across the field getting to the ball carrier. Cornerback Chris Love led the team with seven tackles with linebacker Jordan Williams trailing him with six tackles. Dedrick Hawkins grabbed one interception for the defensive unit, impressing Montgomery.
“Defensively, we did make some plays and had a pair of takeaways, including an interception on third down,” Montgomery said. “The guys up front were aggressive, running to the ball and playing until the whistle. We had a bunch of special teams emphasis today, and it was good to see our starters out there for a lot of special teams work. All in all, it was a good day and a much cleaner scrimmage.”
Despite three offside penalties from the defense, they were able to put pressure on the offense forcing two turnovers including Hawkins’ interception and a fumble recovery from Shuan James.
The Pirates now conclude the end of preseason camp very close to game speed on the defensive side of the ball with less than two weeks up until the season opener against James Madison University. One question that still remains for Montgomery and the coaching staff is who will lead ECU at quarterback in the first game of the 2017-18 campaign.