GREENVILLE — Mike Houston had a tough decision Saturday after East Carolina’s Purple-Gold spring football game.
The winner of the scrimmage between the offense and defense was supposed to get a meal of steak as a reward. The loser would get lesser fare.
The problem was that the offense rallied from a 25-12 deficit at halftime to tie the score at 40 before the clock on the Murphy Center ran down to zeroes.
“I may feed them both beanie-weenies,” said the Pirates coach.
The significance of the spring game reward was a distant second to the final punctuation on a 7-5 season in 2021 as members of the program were presented bowl rings after the scrimmage. Boston College bowed out of the Military Bowl due to COVID before the game was played but Bill Clark Homes saw to it that ECU’s first winning season since 2014 was recognized.
That helped soothe the issue of which unit would be served what meal.
“I’m fine with beanie-weenies,” said running back Rahjai Harris, who scored the day’s only touchdown. “I grew up eating beanie-weenies.”
There were multiple scoring opportunities for both units.
The offense got one point for a first down, one point for crossing the 50-yard line, one point for a running play over 15 yards and one point for a pass play over 25 yards. Touchdowns, field goals and conversions had their traditional point values.
The defense got one point for forcing a punt, one point for a tackle for loss and one point for a pass breakup. Two points were awarded for a 3-and-out, a missed field goal, a fourth-down stop, a sack and a 2-point conversion stop. An interception, fumble recovery or blocked kick was worth four points.
Safety Jireh Wilson had a pick for the defense.
Touch sacks on the quarterbacks provided several points for the defense. Protecting the signal callers had its price for the offense.
Offensive coordinator Donnie Kirkpatrick said starting quarterback Holton Ahlers had a 20-play limit so that backups could get more reps. Ahlers completed 10 of 16 passes for 115 yards.
Mason Garcia saw extensive action, directing the lone scoring drive and also a series that produced a 19-yard field goal by Carson Smith with 4:53 left.
Absences and departures in the receiving corps have produced opportunities for remaining personnel. A total of 16 players had catches. Georgia transfer Jaylen Johnson and Toledo transplant Isaiah Winstead are proven pass catchers but did not play Saturday.
Houston gradually pulled the first-unit defensive players so that backups were in for the final period,
Sophomore offensive lineman Walter Stribling was helped off the field in the second half.
The offense moved the ball for several points to tie the score on its final possession. American Athletic Conference officials ruled that Garcia didn’t spike the ball in time to get one more snap and a possible win. Houston said the defense contended that it had a late stop for a loss that wasn’t added to its score. The coach said the play would get a video review to possibly decide the meal issue.
Both units had their moments despite great familiarity with each other.
The Pirates focused within in their first Purple-Gold game since 2019. Specific preparations for the season-opener against N.C. State on Sept. 3 will begin in preseason camp.
Houston will reward a win over the Wolfpack with a banquet on Sunday after the game.
That’s when the meal will really matter.