Pirates' offense: A work in progress|ECU attack struggles in spring game

Published 11:18 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — The sights and sounds at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were too symbolic to ignore on Saturday as East Carolina played its annual spring game.
The clings and clangs that echoed from the construction crew working to put in place roughly 7,000 new seats behind the end zone across from the Murphy Center mixed in with the cracks and whacks of a different type of renovation that was taking place on the grassy surface of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Both the construction crew and the East Carolina football team are working feverishly towards being a finished product by their opening day deadline of Sept. 5, but on Saturday it was apparent that there was still a lot of work to be done by both parties.
The Pirates newly adopted Air Raid offense struggled to get off the ground during Saturday’s Purple and Gold game as it averaged 4.1 yards per play and reached the end zone only four times during the 100-play scrimmage in front of an announced crowd of 7,125.
East Carolina’s new-look man-to-man defense was generally one step ahead of the offense all day long, racking up 11 sacks and two picks.
That same consistency was missing across the line of scrimmage where the Pirates dropped several passes and struggled to sustain momentum.
In their previous two scrimmages, the Pirates offense looked on par with its counterparts, but on Saturday that was not the case. East Carolina’s first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill felt some of his players might have been influenced by the crowd.
“It was the first time as a football team we had a chance to play in front of a crowd like that and that was special,” McNeill said. “I saw some guys step up and make some plays, and I saw some guys today that were really trying too hard. I saw guys that have been making catches all spring maybe trying too hard to make things happen. That is something that can be corrected.”
Once again Brad Wornick was the first quarterback to take the field and continued out-shine his competition as the walk-on was 18-for-33 for 226 yards, two TD passes and one interception.
The Pirates were on able to use about half of the field due to the construction, forcing each offensive possession to drive towards the Murphy Center.
Wornick, who led his unit to a score on the first possession of the game, felt positive about his outing, but said that the offense lost focus in the second half of the scrimmage.
“I thought we did good. The first half I was a lot more focused and made some good reads. There were a few dropped balls, but we also got the ball in the end zone a few times,” Wornick said. “The second half we lost a little focus coming out, but I thought we picked it up in the end; we finished with two touchdowns.”
Rio Johnson rallied the Pirates for their other two scores, while Josh Jordan, last season’s No. 2 quarterback, did not produce a TD for the second straight scrimmage.
Johnson hit on 18 of his 27 pass attempts for 105 yards and one TD pass, while Johnson struggled connecting on four of his 11 pass attempts for 23 yards and was picked once.
In fairness to the offense, it was missing two of its top receivers in Darryl Freeney and Justin Jones, who were withheld from the scrimmage to allow themselves more time to focus on academics.
Sophomore wideout Andrew Bodenheimer tied for a game-high in receptions with six, while tallying a game-high 83 yards and pulling down two touchdown passes of 16 and 10 yards, respectively.
Javon Brumsey was the only other receiver to reach the end zone, he did so when he caught a Wornick screen pass and dashed 48 yards up field for the score.
The ground game was a little better than it has been in the past as senior Jonathan Williams led the way rushing for 45 yards on five carries while freshman Michael Dobson tallied 36 yards on six attempts and was responsible for the only rushing TD of the scrimmage. Fellow freshman Alex Owah collected 31 yards on five carries, while senior Norman Whitley did not play due to knee injury.
The defensive unit was the clear cut winners on Saturday as it routinely applied pressure on the ECU quarterbacks.
Sophomore Marke Powell led the charge as he accounted for three of East Carolina’s 11 sacks, while Antonio Allison, Mychal Byrd and Derrell Johnson had two a piece.
Linebacker Melvin Patterson led the Pirate in tackles with seven, as DB Jacobi Jenkins and MLB Steve were right behind him with six.
Corner Travis Simmons and safety Bradley Jacobs each recorded an interception.
First-year defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell stresses team defense and on Saturday he got it.
“I’m always working on simple successes … Some of the things we focused on today was just running to the ball, going sideline-to-sideline and making tackles and they did all three of those things,” Mitchell said. “If we are going to play great defense here it is going to be a collective effort. The front did a great job rushing the quarterback, the linebackers did a great job stepping up and stopping the run an our secondary got turnovers and made plays down the field.”
Brad Wornick (33-18-1, 226 yards, 2 TD), Rio Johnson (27-18-0, 105 yards, 1 TD), Josh Jordan (11-4-1, 23 yards). Totals –– 71-40-2, 354 yards, 3 TD (56.3%).
RUSHING: Jonathan Williams (5-45), Michael Dobson (6-36, 1 TD), Alex Owah (5-31), Dwayne Harris (1-16), Josh Jordan (4-), Rio Johnson (4-), Brad Wornick (4-). Totals –– 29-58 (2.0 ypr), 1 TD.
Andrew Bodenheimer (6-83, 2 TD), Javon Brumsey (6-80, 1 TD), T.J. Terrell (3-68), Michael Bowman (6-43), Jeremy Davis (2-15), Reese Wiggins (3-14), Dayon Arrington (2-12), Joe Womack (1-12), Jonathan Williams (6-11), Dwayne Harris (1-11), Zico Pasut (1-6), Michael Dobson (2-0), Alex Owah (1-). Totals –– 40-354, 3 TD
Melvin Patterson 7 (TFL), Jacobi Jenkins 6 (TFL, PB), Steve Spence 6 (sack/-6 yards, PB), Wes Pittman 5 (sack/-6 yards), Devon Wallace 5, Derek Blacknall 4, James Craig 4, Jeremy Grove 4, Antonio Allison 3 (2 sacks/-12 yards), Dustin Lineback 3, Leonard Paulk 3, Marke Powell 3 (3 sacks/-20 yards), Josh Smith 3 (PB), Justin Venable 3 (TFL), Bill Wallace 3, Michael Byrd 2 (sack/-4 yards), Bradley Jacobs 2 (INT, PB), Derrell Johnson 2 (2 sacks/-16 yards), Kyle Tudor 2, Emanuel Davis 1, Maurice Falls 1 (sack/-8 yards), Korey Reynolds 1, Matt Milner (PB), Travis Simmons (INT, PB)