Penalties a concern for Pirates

Published 5:03 pm Sunday, August 17, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — There was only one number that East Carolina coach Skip Holtz wanted to talk about following the Pirates’ final scrimmage of the preseason Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
It wasn’t the 383 yards that quarterbacks Patrick Pinkney and Rob Kass combined to throw for. Nor was it the 206 rushing yards amassed by ECU’s plethora of running backs.
No, the one number on Holtz’s mind was 15. As in the number of penalties committed by the Pirates.
Despite the coaches frustrations, there were several bright spots on Saturday.
The first of which was the running back situation. With projected starter Dominique Lindsay expected to be sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury, senior Brandon Simmons took control of the running back position by posting 59 yards on just five carries.
"Brandon is playing like a workhorse right now," Holtz said. "He's a big strong senior that is physical and is doing a great job for us. So far he has had a phenomenal camp, and with Dominique out, he's really going to have to step it up and carry a bigger part of the load.”
Sophomore Jonathan Williams and junior J.R. Rogers experienced action with both the first team and second team units, while sophomore Norman Whitley ran with the second unit most of the afternoon. Williams finished with 46 yards on 10 carries, and also caught three passes for 62 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception from Pinkney. Rogers added 57 yards on nine carries, while Whitley had just 12 yards on five touches.
"We have three very talented backs behind him in Jonathan Williams, Norman Whitley and J.R. Rogers," Holtz continued. "But as I told them, they are going to be evaluated today, but not when they have the ball in their hands. I'm going to make a decision about who is going to be number two by who plays without the ball, who steps up in pass protections, who'll run block and who'll do all the little things. That's what this scrimmage was about – those three guys coming out and competing for that second spot because it's still wide open. All three are talented – they can all run and do things when they put the ball under their arm. I just want to find out who is going to play every single down for us."
The two quarterbacks also played well. Pinkney completed 12-of-21 passes for 149 yards, while Kass completed 15-of-28 passes for 234 yards. He also led the second unit to a pair of touchdowns, as he connected with T.J. Terrell and T.J. Lee on a pair of 30-yard scoring strikes.
Lee led all receivers with seven catches for 117 yards, while Davon Drew added six catches for 77 yards.
Defensively, safety J.J. Millbrook made the play of the game as he intercepted Kass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.
Junior defensive end C.J. Wilson also played well, leading the defense with two sacks and five tackles.
The Pirates will close out preseason workouts Tuesday before going into resuming their regular fall practice schedule Wednesday as they prepare for their Aug. 30 season opener against the Hokies in Charlotte.