By Nathan Summers – Greenville Daily Reflector
GREENVILLE – The East Carolina football team doesn’t have anything against sophomore kicker Warren Harvey, but they would like to see a little less of him on Saturdays.
In their loss to North Carolina, the Pirates (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) hindered themselves twice in the first half on long drives into the North Carolina red zone by kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
As it turned out, those were the only two trips inside the red zone for ECU, a place where the Pirates have had much success under third-year coach Ruffin McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
“In the red zone, five yards is good,” McNeill said of his target gain each play inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. “If we get a five-yard gain, that’s good. In our past, we’ve been one of the top teams in the country in red zone efficiency. We want to get touchdowns down there.”
Through four games, the Pirates are 7-for-9 (78 percent) inside the red zone, with three field goals and four touchdowns. That puts ECU 76th out of 120 top-division teams.
Last season, as McNeill contended, the Pirates clicked at 87 percent in the red zone, 25th best in the nation. The coach is hopeful that as sophomore quarterback Shane Carden gets more comfortable with his teammates and vice versa, the percentages and the win total will climb.
“I feel like we have a very good red zone package,” McNeill said, noting that the Pirates place an extra emphasis on those situations in three of their four weekly practices. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re efficient, realize where we are, and know that five yards is a good gain down there. We were disappointed that we didn’t get (more) points after watching the film and seeing what we had.”
Arrington dismissed: Late Sunday night, McNeill announced the permanent dismissal of senior receiver Dayon Arrington after Arrington’s arrest for marijuana possession early Sunday morning in Greenville.
It was Arrington’s second misstep this season, as he missed the team’s opener against Appalachian State due to a violation of team rules, and McNeill said that was the basis of the dismissal.
“When you look back at us, we’ve been consistent in our discipline,” McNeill said. “We’ve taken each incident and handled it individually. I think it’s been documented that we feel the representation of our program, of our athletic department and university is at the forefront of what we stand for.”
McNeill stressed the team continues to try to find better ways to help players handle their lives off the field.
Arrington was hours removed from a career-long reception against North Carolina when the arrest occurred, and his coach said it is even tougher to be forced to part ways with a veteran player like Arrington.
“Whenever you have to lose a kid, it’s tough for me,” McNeill said. “If they’ve been here this long with us, they’ve invested a lot physically, emotionally and mentally.”
Receivers Danny Webster and Antonio Cannon also served one-game suspensions in the Pirates’ season opener against the Mountaineers.
Nose tackle Terry Williams returned at Southern Miss a couple of weeks ago, marking the end of his indefinite suspension for marijuana possession last summer. McNeill said it was his understanding those charges had been dropped.