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Offense hits end zone to end practice

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East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers runs against Connecticut last season.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Some of the veterans and emerging leaders of the new-look East Carolina football offense, namely in the form of quarterback Holton Ahlers and lead running back Darius Pinnix, ensured that the Pirates could celebrate touchdowns Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Saturday morning marked the first time coach Mike Houston and the Pirates practiced in their home stadium this spring.

A team drill pitted the offense versus the defense for physical red zone work late in the practice. The offense powered to success, scoring on a bruising run by Pinnix and Ahlers showed off his speed and running prowess with an outside scamper to the end zone. No. 2 QB Reid Herring also lofted a touchdown pass to streaking tight end Jaray Sampson during the sequence.

“I think that Holton did a really good job this week, and the main thing with Reid right now is getting him healthy,” Houston said. “He was able to do a little bit more today and he has to push through this thing right now and get back out there on the field. But I thought Holton did a really good job today leading our offense.”

Houston, the former James Madison coach who was hired in December to get the Pirates back on track, said some type of game simulation and energy in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium provided a big spring moment for him. ECU also was hosting recruits for its elite junior day.

Pinnix’s scoring run featured him barreling over linebacker Myles Berry at the goal line.

“There will be a day when we can sell tickets to that drill,” Houston said. “We are not there yet, but it is going to get there. The kids are working hard and trying to do what we ask them to do and they are learning and pushing themselves to improve every single day.

“I told them that there is no place I would rather be and no bunch I’d rather be here with. We are in this thing together.”

ECU will not practice again until Wednesday. Houston said watching video of Saturday’s drills will be important for players and coaches during the next few days.

The team will hold a full scrimmage next Saturday.

Defensive players are sure to be motivated for the first spring scrimmage.

“For me it does kind of make me mad and think, ‘Dang, why did we just let them score,’” outside linebacker Warren Saba said of the end to Saturday’s practice. “We definitely want to come back and reboot and take it back over.”

Houston stressed cohesion when breaking down how the offense found holes against the defense.

“A lot of the stuff with the runs that we gave up during that team period today was just learning how to fit things correctly and fit off each other,” he said. “This defense is a very disciplined and a gap sound defense, but it has to be played together. If you have guys jumping out of their gap or not understanding where they fit, then that is when you see the big runs.”

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

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