Late scores, defense lift Gold In ECU spring football game

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – Freshman receiver Kerry King’s pair of fourth-quarter touchdown receptions and a surging defensive effort lifted the Gold squad to a 17-3 victory in East Carolina’s Purple-Gold scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.

The contest, which officially marked the end of ECU’s spring workout period, featured a combined seven tackles for lost yardage and six sacks that played a pivotal role in producing a 3-3 deadlock after three quarters of action. Offensively, the two squads collectively generated 362 yards on 85 plays – an average of 4.3 per snap.

“The best thing that came out of today was that there were no injuries,” head coach Mike Houston said. “I’m very happy with so many things this spring and I think the kids had fun today. I know they would have liked a little more scoring on the offensive side, but that shows when you split things up like we did, how much they need each other.”

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Gold starting quarterback Mason Garcia connected with Cam Burnette on a 73-yarder before throwing a four-yard scoring pass to King to break the tie. Freshman signal-caller Ryan Stubblefield followed by adding some insurance on Gold’s next possession by finding King in the back of the endzone on an eight-yard toss for the final margin.

“He (King) has had a great spring,” Houston explained. “He has worked so hard and developed himself, and while he’s always been able to run, it’s his consistency catching the football that has been his biggest improvement.”

Inside linebacker Jacoby Simpson (game-high 5 tackles), outside linebackers Dre Terry (4) and Elijah Robinson (3) led the Gold defensively and keyed a unit that recorded four of the contest’s six sacks. Safety David Laney accounted for the lone takeaway with an interception to close out the action in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

Holton Ahlers guided the Purple squad and led all quarterbacks in passing with a crisp 15-of-17, 133-yard outing. He completed his first seven passes of the day and engineered an opening drive that was capped by a 40-yard Owen Daffer field goal. Garcia, who was seven-of-12 for 96 yards through the air overall, rallied the Gold back with a field goal-producing drive of his own before directing what proved to be the game-winning possession. Stubblefield completed six-of-10 throws for 48 yards, while Alex Flinn backed up Ahlers with a 4-of-12, 39-yard effort.

Both teams rushing attacks were held in check with a combined 38 yards on 31 carries. Keaton Mitchell topped all ball-carriers with 27 yards on four attempts for the Gold team. The Purple squad posted the scrimmage’s top individual receiving performances as Tyler Snead recorded five catches for 41 yards and running back Rahjai Harris added four grabs for 32 yards.

“It was great to have fans here today, that was incredible,” Houston added. “I told the kids that we needed to make sure you said thank you to those who came back. I look forward to our home opener in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and hopefully it will be 51,000 Pirates cheering and screaming in there.

“Overall, it was a good spring and now it is time to get ready for exams next week, take a quick break and then get ready for summer training.”

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