QB Kurt Benkert
April 12, 2014
GREENVILLE, N.C - East Carolina's offensive unit enjoyed a turnover-free performance and used big plays from both its rushing and passing attack to highlight the Pirates' annual Purple-Gold Spring Game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday afternoon.
ECU quarterbacks Shane Carden, Kurt Benkert, Jonathon Weymann and Jason Connella produced a combined 24-of-35, 245-yard and four touchdown performance while dodging a penetrating defense that was credited with eight tackles for lost yardage and 4.5 sacks.
In all, the Pirate offense accounted for five touchdowns - receptions by sophomore Jimmy Williams, junior Bryce Williams, senior Cam Worthy and sophomore DaQuan Barnes, along with a 71-yard run by redshirt freshman Chris Love - and racked up 403 yards on 55 plays, an average of 7.3 per snap. A total of 13 plays, five on the ground and eight through the air, surpassed 10 or more yards.
"We get three full-contact days (during the spring) and I liked the way we progressed in each three," head coach Ruffin McNeill said. "I thought our offense really came along. They did a great job getting everything together and really got better in the protection and the run game."
Benkert, who in addition to connecting with Jimmy Williams on a 45-yard strike to open the scoring, also hit Worthy for 10-yarder to account for two of the scores. The redshirt freshman completed nine-of-13 passes for a game-high 133 yards and generated a unit-best nine first downs on four possessions.
Carden, a senior who earned Conference USA MVP honors a year ago after throwing for 4,139 yards and 33 touchdowns, completed a team-high 10 throws in 15 attempts for 60 yards in limited action. His one-yard TD pass to Bryce Williams capped a run of four-straight completions to close out the Pirates' second scoring drive.
Junior Jonathon Weymann was 4-of-4 for 22 yards, while freshman walk-on Jason Connella made his only completion count with a 30-yard touchdown toss to Barnes on the afternoon's last play from scrimmage
Love's 71-yard scamper, which came on his first carry of the contest, helped East Carolina to a 158-yard ground effort on 20 total attempts - an average of nearly eight yards per rush. Junior Chris Hairston netted 44 yards on six carries (7.3 ypr), while redshirt freshman Marquez Grayson added 22 on four totes.
"I thought Shane did a good job," McNeill said. "He's always been a leader - you ought to hear him in the huddle giving those young guys confidence right away. I've been very pleased with the running back position with Breon (Allen), Chris Hairston and Marquez Grayson. Everybody saw what Chris can do today. It's a good group there. The receiving core really came along too."
After surrendering two early scores, the Pirate defense stiffened by keeping the offense out of the endzone on four consecutive possessions. The No. 1 and No. 2 units made stops on five-of-eight third down conversion opportunities to force a new series or punts, and three players - senior outside linebacker Maurice Falls, junior end Johnathon White and sophomore lineman Frederick Presley - combined to produce sacks to slow or halt drives.
"That first (defensive) unit is going to be a really great group," McNeill added. "The linebacker core we have of Montese Overton, Zeek Bigger, Brandon Williams and Maurice Falls, I think they can be four of the best around. They're leaders and they're playmakers."
Junior cornerback Josh Hawkins and sophomore outside linebacker Dayon Pratt each tallied five tackles to lead all defenders. Falls added four, which included two for lost yardage, while White, Presley, sophomore safety Nate Mays, redshirt freshman end Randall Anderson and junior cornerback Rocco Scarfone all contributed three stops.
The Pirates were flagged only once by an American Athletic Conference officiating crew during the entire afternoon.
East Carolina will officially close out its spring practice schedule Monday afternoon with a light, non-contact workout at the Cliff Moore Complex.
SPRING GAME STATISTICS
RUSHING: Chris Love (2-79, 1 TD), Chris Hairston (6-44), Marquez Grayson (4-22), Jimmy Williams (1-17), Breon Allen (3-12), Jamal Tillman (1-1), Kurt Benkert (3-<-17>). Totals -- 20-158 (7.9 ypr), 1 TD.
PASSING: Kurt Benkert (13-9-0, 133 yards, 2 TD), Shane Carden (15-10-0, 60 yards, 1 TD), Jonathon Weymann (4-4-0, 22 yards), Jason Connella (2-1-0, 30, 1 TD), Justin Hardy (1-0-0, 0 yards). Totals -- 35-24-0, 245 yards, 4 TD (68.6%).
RECEIVING: Jimmy Williams (3-54, 1 TD), DaQuan Barnes (3-47, 1 TD), Isaiah Jones (3-31), Cedric Thompson (3-29), Bryce Williams (3-10, 1 TD), Chris Hairston (2-23), Justin Hardy (2-21), Jonathan Stanley (2-11), Cam Worthy (1-10, 1 TD), Davon Grayson (1-6), Curtis Burston (1-3). Totals -- 24-245, 4 TD
TACKLES: Josh Hawkins 5, Dayon Pratt 5 (TFL/-2 yards), Maurice Falls 4 (2 TFL/-8 yards, 1.0 sacks/-5 yards, QBH), Nate Mays 3, Randall Anderson 3, Johnathon White 3 (3 TFL/-16 yards, 1.5 sacks/-14 yards), Frederick Presley 3 (2 TFL/-13 yards, 2 sacks/-13 yards), Rocco Scarfone 3, Terrell Richardson 2, Domonique Lennon 2, Joe Allely 2, Devaris Brunson 2, Detric Allen 1 (PB), DaShawn Benton 1, Blake Norwood 1, Cody Purdie 1, Pat Green 1, Desi Brown 1, Trevian Hicks 1, Christian Simmons 1, Drayvon Fairley 1, Montese Overton 1, Ty Anderson 1.
TOTAL OFFENSE/TOTAL DEFENSE: 55-403 (7.3 ypp)
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: 4-9 (44.4%) - Benkert (2-5), Connella (1-1), Carden (1-3)
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS (when attempted): 1-1 (100.0%) - Carden (1-1)
PENALTIES: 1 (0/OFFENSE; 1/DEFENSE - unnecessary roughness)
QUARTERBACK FIRST DOWN/SCORING CHART (DRIVES)
Kurt Benkert - 9 first downs, 2 TD (TD, punt, punt, TD)
Shane Carden - 6 first downs, 1 TD (punt, TD, punt)
Jonathan Weymann - 3 first downs, 1 TD (TD)
Jason Connella - 2 first downs, 1 TD (TD)
SCORING: TDs - 5, FG - 0, PATs (5-5)
Jimmy Williams 45-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Warren Harvey PAT)
Bryce Williams 1-yard pass from Shane Carden (Warren Harvey PAT)
Cam Worthy 10-yard pass from Kurt Benkert (Shawn Williams PAT)
Chris Love 71-yard run (Connor Torruella PAT)
DaQuan Barnes 30-yard pass from Jason Connella (Warren Harvey PAT)