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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Brian Bailey

QBs impress as offense awakens

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

That blast of cooler air this past weekend in Eastern North Carolina may not have been a cold front. I think it was that big sigh of relief from the offensive staff at East Carolina.

In the second and final preseason scrimmage at ECU, the offense shined and earned a split, if you will, in the two games. The Pirate defense was decidedly better in the first scrimmage, but this workout went to the offense.

Head coach Ruffin McNeill isn’t looking for a winner or a loser just yet.

“I thought there were some positive things that happened on both sides of the ball,” said McNeill. “There will be some things that the coaches will be disappointed with, but that’s what we want because they are searching for perfection.”

That search for perfection will continue throughout the season. The scrimmage featured several infractions that McNeill wants to stamp out before the opener against Old Dominion.

“We had a couple of penalties on both sides of the ball today that we have to correct,” McNeill explained. “That is uncharacteristic of this team and how they have been performing in camp. So we will address those things pretty quickly. Overall, I was pleased with the execution and the substitutions on both sides of the ball from package to package.”

Though not perfect, Shane Carden did finished 9-of-12 for 106 yards and a touchdown. He connected on his first seven passes.

“I said it all week that we have to execute the little plays,” said Carden, who seemed relieved after the offense's struggle from the previous Saturday. “Sometimes it’s boring. Sometimes you just want to throw it 50 yards every time. But you have to execute the small plays. Do that and the big plays will come.”

That’s the Lincoln Riley way. Riley has said since day one that this offense, when executed, is very difficult to stop. We’ve seen flashes of that and now this offense looks to take the next step. Riley was also in a better mood after this second scrimmage.

“Shane was able to score with both groups,” said Riley. “I thought (reserve quarterback) Cody (Keith) played well. We dropped too many balls and we turned it over.”

One of the emerging surprises in the Pirate camp is the play of sophomore running back Cory Hunter. Hunter ran the ball five times for 35 yards and a touchdown. He’s also caught the attention of the Pirate staff.

“He’s going to play a bunch,” said Riley. “He’s very dependable. He’s wherever he is supposed to be. Whenever he is supposed to block, he blocks who he is supposed to block. When he runs the ball he runs hard. He catches it. He’s just one of those players that you wished you had more of.”

The two main objectives from Saturday’s scrimmage were for the offense to bounce back and for the Pirates to stay healthy. There were some aches and pains, but reportedly nothing too serious.

The Pirates were back on the practice field Monday before the start of classes on Tuesday at East Carolina.

Some of the other stars from Saturday’s second scrimmage included quarterback Kurt Benkert, who threw a touchdown pass, and freshman receiver Isaiah Jones, who scored a touchdown for the second straight scrimmage.

The traditional in-season practice schedule kicks off on Wednesday this week as the Pirates continue to get closer to that opener against ODU.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

PAGE UPDATED 08/19/13 08:10 PM.

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