Trojans’ defense shines in second scrimmage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2001

The second take of the "Trojan Spread" offense wasn’t much different from the first for the Troy State football team.

The Trojan defense once again ruled the afternoon in the team’s second preseason scrimmage, forcing four turnovers while holding the offense to just three scores in approximately 100 total plays at Memorial Stadium.

"Right now, we couldn’t beat the Sisters of the Poor on offense," Troy State head coach Larry Blakeney said. "We are playing against a pretty good defense, and we are still short-handed on the offensive line. But we just aren’t where we need to be."

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For the second consecutive scrimmage, the offense found it difficult to move the ball consistently and even more difficult to time its routes and plays with consistency.

Senior quarterback Brock Nutter finished 6-of-22 passing for 52 yards with three interceptions, but those numbers didn’t accurately reflect the afternoon, Blakeney said. The Hoover, Ala., native delivered the ball consistently to receivers, many times just missing targets, having the ball caught out of bounds or deflected by a swarming secondary.

Nutter set up the first-team’s only score of the day after finding junior Heyward Skipper downfield for a 28-yard gain to the 10-yard line. Junior fullback Jonathan Tomlin scored from two yards out two plays later.

That would be it for the offensive highlights, however, as the defense took control for the remainder of the afternoon. The second-team offense managing a 43-yard field goal and a late scoring pass to round out the offensive highlights.

Backup quarterback Hansell Bearden was 10-of-20 for 93 yards and a touchdown, that coming on a 21-yard strike to freshman Jason Samples on the final play of the afternoon.

"We’ve got a long way to go," Nutter said. "We just aren’t playing like we practice, and it’s really not any fun right now. We understand the offense on paper and in the film room, but we are definitely having a problem converting it to a scrimmage situation. It’s not just one area, it’s all of us ­ from me, to the line, to the receivers. I’m glad we’ve still got two weeks to sort things out."

For all of the problems on the offensive side, the Troy State defense continues to play well, Blakeney said.

The first-team continued with its dominance, forcing three interceptions ­ one of which was returned 57 yards for a touchdown by junior Deiric Jackson. Redshirt freshman Derrick Ansley also continued to firm up his grip on the starting free safety position with an interception in his second straight scrimmage.

"Our defense is playing well," Blakeney said. "They are swarming to the ball and making good reads. That is a veteran group, and they are playing like it."

For now, Blakeney’s concerns will rest with the offensive side of the ball, where he maintains that a healthy offensive line will cure many of the Trojans’ woes.

"We started the scrimmage with three guys who we believe will be starters for us this year," Blakeney said. "We finished with only one. If we can ever get five or six of our front guys healthy at the same time, we’ll be fine. The bottom line is that we are not going to give up on this offense. We’ve done that too many times before when we decided to throw it and changed our minds because we didn’t have the right personnel or whatever. We are going to throw the football this year. You can count on that."

In other news:

Freshman safety Arthur Adams continued with his impressive fall practice, delivering a crushing blow after wide receiver Eric Felton caught a short pass behind the line of scrimmage ­ drawing a tremendous ovation from the crowd on hand and his defensive teammates.

Placekicker Drew Boteler also continued with his improvement, hitting one of two field goal attempts. His successful attempt was from 43 yards late in the scrimmage. He split the uprights on both PATs as well.

The third-team offense ­ and quarterback Kacson Maddox ­ made its first appearance on Saturday albeit with a good case of the jitters. After a procedure penalty and fumble on the first two snaps of the series, Maddox scrambled for five yards on his final play.

In the first two scrimmages, redshirt freshman running back DeWhitt Betterson has led the team in carries and yards. On Saturday, he tallied 11 carries for 26 yards, all with the second-team offense. He rushed fore 65 yards in Wednesday’s scrimmage. "DeWhitt has looked good and continues to get better everyday," Blakeney said. "He is a different type of runner than our other backs ­ he’s a lot bigger and stronger. He is going to be a player for us."

Blakeney said the one element of the team’s offense that he has been pleased with thus far is the running game, although the team hasn’t spent much time working on the running game thus far, Blakeney said. "We’ll have a lot more running in our offense than we have shown, but we don’t need as much work on it as we do throwing right now," Blakeney said.

The play of Samples, a freshman wide receiver, also drew praise from his head coach on Saturday. The Swainsboro, Ga., native led all receivers with three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. "He is still trying to learn the offense, but you can bet that he is going to be on that field this year," Blakeney said. "When he’s working in one-on-one coverage, he usually wins. He knows how to go after the football."

Blakeney was also pleased with the play of senior middle linebacker Ben Waldrop, who finished with six tackles and an interception on Saturday. "He’s going to play a major role for us," Blakeney said of the Florida State transfer. "He may even win a position."

Freshman linebacker Leverne Johnson finished with seven total tackles on Saturday.

The Troy State Football Appreciation Night, with a raffle and auction to benefit the TSU football program, is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, at the Troy Holiday Inn. The event will begin at 6 p.m. For more information, or to purchase tickets for the raffle, call Marcus Paramore at (334) 670-3480.

The Trojans will hold a ""Fan Appreciation Rally"" on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Trojan Arena. The event is free to the public and will take the place of the team’s annual ""Fan Day."" Players will be on hand for autographs, along with free refreshments and T-shirts for children under 12.