ECU conducted its final scrimmage of the preseason on Friday, wrapping up its traditional preseason camp before turning focus to preparations for UCF. The Pirates were ran off the field in the latter portion of the scrimmage by lightning in the area, but recorded around 90 plays on the afternoon.

“It was a little bit different than our last couple of scrimmages in that we did not have a script for what happened on the field, what just put the ball down, kicked off and just played it game simulation,” head coach Mike Houston said. “The officials really controlled everything. Whatever situations came up, we played them out. It was a continuous scrimmage, but one that was a little bit more like a true game simulation.”

That game simulation, which will continue for the next two weeks as the Pirates ready for the Knights on Sept. 26, will play a large role making sure ECU is versed in any possible scenario that may crop up during a contest.

Offensively, the Pirates scored two touchdowns and added two field goals off the legs of Patrick Nations and Owen Daffer while posting 427 total yards. Quarterback Holton Ahlers was lifted after three drives, but turned in a 7-for-9 performance for 102 yards. Alex Flinn and Mason Garcia were a combined 15-for-22 for 190 yards on 10 drives.

Freshman running back Keaton Mitchell found the end zone from 12 yards out, while Garcia hit Jonathan Johnson for a 31-yard touchdown pass. Chase Hayden also chipped in a 49-yard run, the longest of the scrimmage.

Defensively, the Pirates racked up 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. Eric Doctor picked off Garcia and returned it 40 yards for a score, while the unit as a whole forced six punts and two missed field goals.

“It was good to get back out there and have some full-contact practice,” Houston said. “As far as the performance, pretty evenly matched day I would say overall, some big plays from both sides and some busts from both sides. I would put our performance probably somewhere between the first and second scrimmage. Really not surprising due to we still have a pretty high number in the return to play protocol that did not participate today.”

Houston told ECU’s Board of Trustees on Friday that the program has around 12 players in return to play protocol, meaning they are clear of the virus, but are still easing back into football activities after an extended period off.

While the Pirates as a whole have been working hard to knock the rust off since coming back from a 12-day pause, Houston said Friday’s scrimmage was fairly void of penalties from a crew of largely American Athletic Conference referees present at the scrimmage.

“A fairly clean scrimmage from that standpoint, not a whole lot of flags,” Houston said. “A very experienced crew too, I think six of the officials out there today were American Conference officials. The white hat I’ve had multiple times. Very solid referees, so I felt like we had a really good crew with us today.”

In its final formal scrimmage of the preseason, Houston said the defense looked a bit sharper than in past practices after coming out of the pause a little shaky. Damir Faison, Dre’Shuwn Terry and Chris Willis booked two tackles for loss each.

Ahlers found C.J. Johnson for a 38-yard completion, while Flinn hooked up with Terrance Copper Jr. and Audie Omotosho for gains of 41 and 29 yards, respectively.

With 15 days before UCF comes to town, ECU will move into game week practices to install coverages and plays to combat the Knights. That work will begin Monday after the Pirates take tomorrow off and use Sunday for film study.

“We’re taking tomorrow off,” Houston said. “Come back Sunday and do some more install stuff and some corrections from the scrimmage. Monday will be a heavy install day for UCF, and we’re going to be pretty light on those two days, no contact or anything like that. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are going to be traditional game week practices.”

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