East Carolina wrapped up fall camp over the weekend with the team’s second scrimmage of the preseason.
Both sides of the ball, the offense and the defense, had their moments to shine in the Saturday scrimmage. It was especially nice to see the defense play so well at times.
When you’re playing one another sometimes it’s hard to tell which unit is shining. Is the defense playing well or is it just the offense not clicking on all cylinders? Sometimes you have to wait until the opening game to get those answers.
I didn’t think the quarterbacks had their best day on Saturday. Still, Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring combined to throw for 340 yards. The two were 22-41 on the afternoon with one touchdown.
Ahlers and Herring turned the football over way too many times. That was a point of interest as first-year coach Mike Houston addressed his team afterwards.
“We just have to take care of the football better,” said Houston. “We turned it over way too many times.”
That was certainly a point of emphasis when Houston met with his players after the scrimmage. I was standing some 50 yards away, but you could make out just about every word.
“Both sides made plays and both sides made mistakes,” Houston said. “Then again, I thought both sides took advantage of mistakes the other side made and that’s want we want. We have to make our opponents pay when they make mistakes.”
The Pirates now move into their regular practice routine. ECU’s football program took Monday off. The team was scheduled to get back to work on Tuesday afternoon.
In-season work is much different than fall camp. Houston has moved his team back to afternoon practices. Those practices start this week.
“It’s exciting to think we’re only two weeks away,” Houston said. “There were times after we got here and we were trying to learn the players, upgrade the facilities, recruit, put the staff together and the rest of it that it was almost overwhelming.
“Looking back now, we’ve come a long way. We’ve seen a transformation of our players in the locker room and on the field, more maturity and development. We are not a finished product yet, but we are light years from where we were in the spring.”
Mike Houston inherited a broken team last December. That squad limped home from Raleigh after a crushing loss to N.C. State. Now, the Pirates have a chance to dust themselves off and get back up again a week from Saturday.
Houston ran a tough camp over the last two and half weeks.
“It had to be tough,” said Houston. “We had to get tougher as a football team and I think we did.”
Last year the Pirates moved to morning practices. I became a big fan of the early workouts, as did many of the players. I think Houston considered keeping the mornings, but he felt more comfortable going back to afternoons.
“It’s going to be hot and humid at noon in Raleigh,” Houston said. “You have to practice in the heat to prepare to play in the heat. It’s been pretty hot during our morning camp, but I think that late afternoon window will be the peak of the heat. We have the next two weeks to push ourselves to get conditioned to play in it.”
The coach is right about the heat in the opener. I think a steamy hot day should benefit the Pirates in the game against State because of the conditioning work the Pirates have battled through.
ECU continues as a 17-point underdog. That number was as high as 20 this summer.
This is a week to start researching the Wolfpack and continue to condition. Next week all eyes will be on the Wolfpack.
The high school football season kicks off this Friday night. For many of us, the football season is just days away.
Many a Pirate star has made their football debut in our area on ‘Touchdown Friday’ on WNCT-TV.
Here’s to getting started with the best time of the year.