ADA — When ECU defensive coordinator Todd Fugett retires from coaching, he could have a future as a motivational speaker if he decides to go that way.

After seeing his defense pushed around for the first half of Thursday’s second spring scrimmage, Fugett gathered his shell-shocked troops together during an informal halftime break for a few well-chosen words — words designed for just such an occasion and little else.

“It was ugly,” Fugett said of his impromptu speech.

“It was inspirational,” all-conference free safety Cody Fagan said with a smile.

Whatever else it was, Fugett’s tirade was effective. His defense — burned for four touchdown passes in 10 first-half possessions — limited the offense to just five first downs in nine possessions after the break to cap a crisp 105-minute scrimmage that left players and coaches on both sides of the ball feeling pretty good about their afternoon’s work.

“I thought it was a good scrimmage all the way around,” first-year ECU head coach Kurt Nichols said afterward. “We put in roll protection (plays that allowed quarterbacks Akeem Leviston and Robbie Treadwell to roll away from the defensive pressure to buy time in the pocket), and we hit some big plays when the defense came up in run support.

“Our pass protection broke down in the second half,” added Nichols, who saw his offensive line surrender five sacks after the break. “We didn’t do a very good job of pass blocking, our receivers dropped some passes, and our quarterbacks threw some low balls.”

During the first 45 minutes or so, Treadwell, Leviston and Co. put on a clinic on the ground and through the air, and the ECU offense made history of a sort by scoring against the first-team defense — something that hadn’t happened in five straight scrimmages dating back to last spring — not once but twice.

After each going three-and-out against the No. 1 defense on their first attempt Thursday, Treadwell and Leviston both directed scoring drives capped by long touchdown passes against Fugett’s No. 1 defense, and the battered Tiger tailback rotation ate up big chunks of yardage on the ground as well.

“I thought we ran the ball a lot better today than we did Saturday (in the first spring scrimmage),” Nichols said after watching starting tailback Evans “Flash” Gordon and back-ups Pat Lee and Robert Moore — all nursing injuries — provide a solid complement to the aerial show by Treadwell and Leviston in the first half.

Gordon, who aggravated an old ankle injury Saturday but returned to score a touchdown late in the scrimmage, was used sparingly Thursday, gaining just 13 yards on four carries, but he delivered a blow to a tackler at the end of each run. He re-injured the ankle, however, while pass blocking on a scoring play late in the first half and didn’t return after intermission.

Lee went to the sidelines late in Saturday’s scrimmage with a shoulder injury, but he gained 37 yards on his first four carries Thursday — including runs of 13 and 11 yards — and had 46 yards on seven tough carries before intermission. And, like Gordon, he also blocked well in pass protection and for the quarterbacks on designed rollouts.

“Pat ran hard,” Nichols said of Lee, a redshirt sophomore from Balch Springs, Texas. “He hadn’t had a real good week of practice, but he stepped it up today. And I have to give the offensive line a lot of credit.”

Moore, who tweaked a hamstring last week and sat out Saturday’s first scrimmage, gained six yards on his first carry of the afternoon and had a 10-yard run and a 13-yard gain on a screen pass after intermission before retiring for the day with what Nichols called “a possible concussion”. A redshirt sophomore, Moore missed most of last spring’s practice after suffering a concussion in the first scrimmage.

With his available tailbacks at less than 100 percent, Nichols turned to Leviston — an honorable mention all-Lone Star Conference performer last season as a junior — and Treadwell — a transfer from NEO who was the offensive star of Saturday’s scrimmage — and the ECU receivers to carry most of the load, and he got what he wanted from his offense in the first half.

Treadwell, who was on the field for the first two series of the day, completed 13-of-20 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns before intermission and hit Mark Hodges for a five-yard scoring pass to cap a 65-yard drive and begin a streak of four touchdowns in five possessions by the offense to close out the first half of the scrimage. The touchdown was set up by a 41-yard pass-and-run from Treadwell to Mike Glover, who caught a short toss over the middle and raced to the 24 before being dragged down.

Glover, ECU’s fastest player and one of the stars of Saturday’s scrimmage, also got behind the secondary for a 61-yard scoring pass from Leviston for the third offensive touchdown of the day and finished with five catches for 126 yards.

Leviston, who struggled early in Saturday’s scrimmage before directing a late touchdown drive, also started slowly Thursday, completing just three of his first eight passes. But he hit five of his last eight before intermission, including the strike to Glover and a beautiful 34-yard scoring pass to redshirt freshman Ryan White while directing the the second-team offense against the No. 1 defensive unit.

Both touchdown passes came on rollouts to the left by Leviston, who was 8-for-16 for 163 yards before intermission and also hit Zelto Anderson — who turned a short pass into the flat into an 80-yard touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage and who, like Glover, has shown an ability to make big gains out of short passes this spring — for a 38-yard catch-and-run in the second half. Leviston also had a 34-yard run after a nice fake on a option pitch for another of the handful of offensive first downs after intermission.

Kory Dowell, who played for Nichols at Cisco Junior College, followed his eight-reception effort Saturday with another strong performance Thursday and joined Hodges, Glover, Anderson, White, Mike Smith, Sterling Headen and Quinta Becks to give Treadwell and Leviston an assortment of prime targets in a unit that figures to be one of the team’s strengths this season.

Dowell caught six passes for 105 yards Thursday, and he showed he is more than just a possession receiver when he got behind the defense to catch a 65-yard scoring strike from Treadwell (on a rollout to the right) on the final play before the break.

In the second half, Fugett’s defensive unit took charge and, with the exception of a few big plays, totally controlled the action.

New starting cornerback Shane Richardson set the tempo early, intercepting a Leviston pass (after the ECU signal-caller was rushed by Cory Roberts, a transfer from Tyler Junior College who has been one of the stars of the spring) and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown on the third play after intermission.

Leviston’s pass to Anderson and his 34-yard run both put the offense in position to score in the second half, but the first drive ended when Moore came up a yard short at the 29 after catching a screen pass on fourth-and-14, and the second died when Leviston was sacked for an eight-yard loss on fourth-and-eight at the 17.

Although the secondary was inconsistent and the linebacking corps was without all-conference peformer Andrew O’Neill (who is nursing a minor hamstring injury) for most of the day, Fugett got solid efforts from a number of players in his front seven, including sophomore middle linebacker Leon Ames, defensive ends James Henderson and Winford Hood, tackles Cedric Cofer and Carl Crawford and outside linebacker Stephen Marshall.

The Tigers will take a break for the Easter holiday before returning to wrap up spring drills with three days of practice (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) and Saturday’s annual spring game.