East Carolina’s football team is in game week — without an opponent.
After conducting its final preseason scrimmage Friday and having a light weekend of workouts, ECU coach Mike Houston wanted to turn a lot of attention toward UCF on Monday and to treat the upcoming days like a mock game week. The Pirates, however, do not play until Sept. 26 against the No. 14 Knights, which begin their season Saturday at Georgia Tech.
“We’re going to try to take them through Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for what this is what game week is like,” Houston said. “Friday we’re going to have a mock game simulation. We do that every year basically one week out, so we’ll go through the locker room setup and pregame. This is going to be new for everybody, because it’s COVID-19 locker room setup and COVID-19 pregame warmups. We’ll go over how we do everything on the sideline and halftime and all of that stuff, trying to take our kids through everything we are going to have when we get to gameday the following Saturday.”
Houston described the last scrimmage as generally even and clean. It served as continuation of a recent trend of extended action for Mason Garcia and Alex Flinn in their competition to be quarterback Holton Ahlers’ backup.
Ahlers completed 7-of-9 passes for 102 yards in three possessions. Flinn connected with Terrance Copper Jr. for a 41-yard pass play, and he led a drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Keaton Mitchell.
Chase Hayden churned out a 49-yard run. The defense offset some of the offense’s big plays with a total of 13 tackles for loss.
“It was a fairly clean scrimmage and not a whole lot of flags,” Houston said. “We got Holton out of there and really wanted to get Mason Garcia and Alex Flinn a lot of work today. Both of them played well. Alex handled it and faced a lot of pressure and I thought he handled it pretty good and stayed pretty composed. ... Mason made some throws where you are just like, ‘Wow.’ His talent is special, so some of the throws he made when he stood in the pocket today, he’s getting there. He’s still young, but he’s getting there.”
Jake Verity did not participate, leaving the field goal duties to Patrick Nations and Owen Daffer.
Ahlers and Verity are two of the Pirates’ most proven players and All-American Athletic Conference candidates.
Flinn and Garcia are both freshmen who have never played in a college game.
Garcia threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Johnson. Linebacker Eric Doctor provided a defensive highlight when he intercepted a Garcia pass and returned it 40 yards for a pick-six.
“I was on the field with the players and I thought one of the things that stood out was our defense executed much better than we probably did in the last scrimmage,” Houston said. “Our blitz patterns were pretty tight and coverages were on the same page for the most part.”