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Pirates battle in the air during scrimmage

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East Carolina's Blake Proehl, front, makes a catch during warmups before Saturday's scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It remains difficult for East Carolina’s offense to run against the ECU defensive front, which led to the team airing it out Saturday during the first scrimmage of the preseason.

Defensive backs and receivers battled for the football often to highlight the 100-plus play scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Quarterback Kingsley Ifedi connected on a few deep passes and late in the scrimmage is when No. 1 quarterback Reid Herring hit receiver Deondre Farrier over the middle for a catch and run 55-yard touchdown. The day ended when a pass from Holton Ahlers, a frequent scrambler with the No. 2 offense facing a steady pass-rush, was tipped in the air and snagged by the defense for an interception.

There were two interceptions and a plethora of tackles for loss. With no quarterback-designed runs, the Pirates rushed 50 times times for 106 yards.

“I thought there was just some outstanding play by certain defensive players out there, and I am not going to point them out because I don’t know how they are going to grade out for the entirety of the scrimmage,” head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “All in all I thought we did well, but we have to be better on special teams and we have to do better than what we did on special teams. … It just wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked it to be, and we have more work to do in that area.”

Linebacker Delvontae Harris and defensive back Jaren Rainey — both freshmen — had the INTs. Starting linebacker Aaron Ramseur was the top tackler with eight stops, including a fumble force.

Herring connected on 16-of-26 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns to lead the aerial attack, and Ifedi was 9-of-16 for 229 yards. Ahlers (8-of-19, 104 yards) was the top running QB with seven carries for 19 yards, which was only 4 yards behind leading rusher Hussein Howe.

“I got Trevon (Brown) the ball early and Blake (Proehl) in some open space and Tahj Deans and Terrell Green,” Herring said. “I kept telling Deondre to be patient and we are going to get him one. We finally got him one there at the end and scored on a seam ball, so that was really good.”

Top receiver Brown was a frequent target as expected and he finished with five catches, including a touchdown. Green, a 6-foot-4 senior backup, showed big-play potential with three receptions for 101 yards and a score.

Montgomery said that after watching film, the Pirates will turn more of their attention to Week 1 of the season. ECU hosts North Carolina A&T on Sept. 1.

“We have to find out who the playmakers at every position are,” the third-year coach said. “The biggest thing is we have to find the right guys, off of this tape that we watch today, to play together. The 1s and 2s have battled back and forth, but now this tape will give us a good barometer to see where we are and the biggest deal is to find the best 11 on offense and defense and special teams so that we can go into the season ready to go.”

Darius Pinnix had the lone ground TD with a 2-yard run.

Nolan Johnson secured six tackles and Colby Gore five from the secondary.

“I still think we have little things that we have to clean up, as everyone does, but we are getting there and getting game ready,” defensive coordinator David Blackwell said. “The biggest thing is what we did today and that was tackling in space. I thought at times we tackled really well in space and at times we did not, so I think that’s something we have continue to do. When guys are in one-on-one situations and in space, we have to get them to the ground.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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