One really can’t tell a whole lot about a football team from a scrimmage, especially a spring scrimmage.
Both East Carolina coordinators dummied-down their respective plays and formations, because other teams will scout the spring games. Still, I thought the Pirates put on an entertaining show on Saturday inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
There were big plays on both sides of the football. The Purple scored the game’s first touchdown on a big hit and fumble recovery and return. Devon Sutton had the big hit, and Cole Nigro scooped and scored from 30-yards out to give the Purple team the early lead.
While all of the talk has been about the quarterback position, it was a redshirt running back that perhaps won MVP honors for the game. Trace Christian scored three rushing touchdowns for the Gold, including the game-winning 22-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter.
Still, it was the quarterback play that garnered the most interest.
Projected starter Reid Herring and true freshman Holton Ahlers had almost identical stats. Herring was 12-20 for 191 yards, while Ahlers was 12-18 for 205 yards.
“Reid (Herring) is just further along, but he should be,” said Pirate offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. “Hilton [Ahlers] is behind him somewhat, but he is actually further along at this point in his career than any other quarterback that I have worked with.”
Ahlers took advantage of his receivers, connecting on deep routes to the Pirates’ best receiver in Trevon Brown, and Ahler’s friend from his days at D.H. Conley High School, Duce Fuller. Brown caught 9 balls for 169 yards while Fuller made 5 catches for 114 yards.
Holton was hampered somewhat because the quarterbacks didn’t go ‘live’ in the scrimmage. Anytime a defensive player got a hand on the quarterback, the officials blew the play dead. We all know that there won’t be many defenders bringing Ahlers down with just one paw.
“We really wanted to go live with our quarterbacks,” said Petersen. “But we just couldn’t afford an injury at that position, so we decided against it.”
“We have a couple of guys that can flat out throw the ball,” said third-year Pirate head coach Scottie Montgomery. “We split up all our skill today and I look over and there is Blake Proehl, Leroy Henley, Darius Pinnix, Anthony Scott, and all those guys on the sideline (injured) so now you start to feel like our talent level is where it needs to be.”
The other bright spot from the spring game was the play of the defense.
First year defensive coordinator David Blackwell coached the Gold to the win, but he said he had to fight from coaching the Purple defense as well at times.
“I thought we really tackled well in space,” said Blackwell. “And you absolutely have to in this day and age of college football.”
The Gold had three sacks and 10 tackles for lost yardage in the game. The Gold also held the Purple to less than a yard per carry on the ground. The Purple netted just 19 yards on 24 carries.
I asked Coach Blackwell if he could see improvement from last year’s defense, which ranked dead last in the nation.
“We don’t think about last year,” said Blackwell. “This is a new team and a new beginning. I like how the guys are working. We have a ways to go but I like how they all come to work each and every day.”
Raequan Purvis led the Purple with six tackles, while Colby Gore led the Gold team with his six stops.
“It was, all around, a great day,” said Coach Montgomery in wrapping things up. “The competition between the Purple and the Gold was good to see, and yes, there were some bragging rights. I can’t really talk much about what is going to happen between the Gold and the Purple, but let’s just say it was a big deal that the Gold won and the Purple lost. It will be interesting to see how the week plays out.”
The winning team in the spring game got steak dinners at one time. The losers those years were stuck with beanie weenies. The losing team also had to serve the winning squad their meals.
This year the rumor was that the losers had to spend a ‘special’ session with strength coach Jeff Connors, while the winners watched.
I guess it truly is, ‘To the victors go the spoils.’