Saturday’s Spring football game at East Carolina was our last taste of pigskin until August.
The weather certainly didn’t cooperate, but things could have been much worse with showers and storms all around. There had to be at least some talk of postponing the game, but luckily that move wasn’t necessary and the game went on as scheduled.
I had the chance to conduct interviews for the video screen during the game. First year ECU head coach Mike Houston wanted the Spring game to be as interactive as he could, so he did brief interviews with me throughout the game.
The offense, dressed in white but referred to as Gold for the game, won the contest 71-36. The Pirate coaches used a modified scoring system, with both squads scoring points by a number of non-traditional measurements. Points were also scored for traditional plays, like touchdowns and field goals.
Coach Houston has seen great progress in his Pirates throughout the Spring campaign.
“You look at us today versus a month ago, and there’s been tremendous improvement,” said Houston after the game. “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. On defense, we had our bright spots. 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.”
Darius Pinnix was perhaps the MVP of the spring game. In a contest with a very limited number of big plays, Pinnix was a part of a couple. He converted a fourth-and-two when the Pirates were in field goal range at the 27-yard line. He followed that up with a 7-yard touchdown run that pretty much put the game out of reach.
Pinnix carried the ball five times for 31 yards with the one score. He also had a pair of short receptions.
“Pinnix, just like he has been all spring, was solid today,” Houston said. “The most impressive thing for me was the fourth down when we decided to go for it. We were in field goal range, but I wanted to see how we would respond in that situation. We had a great surge at the line of scrimmage, and Pinnix, he’s a load.”
Pinnix also had one of the best throws of the day. After his touchdown, he fired the football into the stands.
“Coach Houston likes us to bring energy to the field,” he said. “That’s not something I’ll ever do in the regular season, but I was just having fun with the crowd and getting them more involved.”
“Coach Houston said he’d better have been throwing it to his mom, but I don’t know if he was or not,” quarterback Holton Ahlers joked. “He threw it pretty far. That was impressive.”
Ahlers was 10-for-19 for 118 yards. He actually had the best pass of the day, a 48-yard pitch and catch to Blake Proehl. That connection set up an 18-yard scamper by Hussein Howe, who led all rushers in the game with 71 yards on 15 carries.
Houston says his team has certainly come a long way since the start of Spring camp. He emphasizes that there is still plenty of work ahead.
“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.”
The Pirates will soon transition into summer conditioning before the start of Fall camp in August.
It seems like it’s a long way off, but August practice and the 2019 season opener at North Carolina State will be here before you know it.