Scrimmage number one for East Carolina is in the books and reviews from head coach Scottie Montgomery were mixed.
The scrimmage was closed to the public and media so my observations come from the stat sheet and several sources that watched the scrimmage.
From that standpoint, Philip Nelson continues to impress. That’s good news because he IS the Pirate quarterback.
Nelson drove the Pirates to a pair of scoring drives, completing 11-17 passes for 194 yards. Nelson has to be the catalyst of this big play offense. His 26-yard strike to Jimmy Williams opened the scoring. He then found Quay Johnson on a 65-yard connection to highlight the workout.
“I thought our quarterbacks operated the offense and threw the ball as well as they’ve done since I have been at East Carolina,” said first year coach Scottie Montgomery. “That was a big-time scrimmage for them.”
Junior college transfer Gardner Minshew (15-of-22, 196 yards, TD) and freshman Reid Herring (7-of-8, 175 yards, 3 TDs) also played well.
Add it all up and the Pirates completed 34-of-50 passes for 576 yards, six touchdowns and had one pass intercepted.
After viewing the films, Coach Montgomery offered other evaluations from his team’s first scrimmage on Sunday.
“I always want to get the run game better,” said Montgomery. “We have to eliminate some of the tackles for loss and we have to make sure that we are winning some of our double teams at the line of scrimmage. A couple of our defensive linemen had something to do with that, which was a positive for that group.”
On defense the Pirates had eight tackles for loss including a pair of sacks. Bobby Fulp made the defensive play of the game, picking off a Phillip Nelson pass and returning it for a touchdown.
“I thought we had good coverage in some situations, but the offensive skills made some great plays and that’s good to see,” Montgomery added. “We did have some blown coverages and didn’t tackle particularly well, but for the most part we played good as a unit. The defensive line did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback, and for the most part, kept the run game in check.”
If there was a big negative in the scrimmage it was the many penalties. Officially there were eleven on the stat sheet but I was told there were even more. That’s not what Scottie Montgomery wants after promising a disciplined football team. If you are going to have a blizzard of flags, it’s better to have them now. Hopefully it was part of the learning curve for this team, and those things are correctable.
Saturday’s first scrimmage emphasized special teams in the second half of the workout. Montgomery likes what he sees in that group so far.
“Shannon Moore has done a great job with the detail of that group,” said Montgomery. “We have young guys on that unit, but they are good athletes. We also have starters playing special teams and that comes from the energy that Coach Moore has with his install meetings.”
Next weekend the Pirates hit the road for Charlotte and then in two weeks will conduct a “dress rehearsal” type scrimmage before the start of the first game week of the season.
That leads up to the opener, when Western Carolina comes a calling on September 3rd.
It’s so close, but still so far away.