Defense dominates first TSU scrimmage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 10, 2002

The first scrimmage of the spring season didn’t offer many surprises for the Troy State football team on Saturday afternoon at Richard M. Scrushy Field.

Great defense. A youthful offense. A long way to go before the team’s Aug. 31 opener at national power Nebraska.

After watching his squad work through a 120-play situational scrimmage for just over two hours, Trojans head coach Larry Blakeney said he saw flashes of excitement but, more importantly, a significant amount of improvement that needs to be made.

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"It was about like I expected it to be ­ a lot of mistakes, too many turnovers, too many missed assignments, too many penalties," Blakeney said. "There are a lot of thing we can improve on and coach on. There are a lot of young guys participating who need to be ready to play, and we don’t have that much longer to work this spring."

The team’s "Trojan Spread" offense opened the scrimmage well enough, marching 80 yards in eight plays against the first-team defense. A 48-yard reception from sophomore Hansell Bearden to wide receiver Heyward Skipper keyed the drive, which ended with Bearden plunging in from a yard out.

From there, however, the first- and second-team defenses took control ­ forcing three turnovers while shutting the offense out of the end zone the rest of the way. TSU’s special teams also had a productive afternoon, blocking four field goals, including one that was returned 65 yards for a score by Jermaine Miller.

Bearden finished 14-of-24 passing for 125 yards with an interception with the first-team unit, while Kacson Maddox was 13-of-23 for 123 yards and two interceptions with the second-team squad. Maddox was also sacked five times.

"I’m not sure the quarterbacks necessarily shined today," Blakeney said. "After the first drive, it looked like we were going to shine, and then we didn’t do a whole lot after that. At times, all of the quarterbacks did some good things, but there was never anybody who was totally consistent and in control and mistake-free."

Blakeney singled out wide receivers Drew Amerson and Chad Lucas for their performances on Saturday. Amerson caught two balls for 25 yards while Lucas had three catches for 27 yards, all with the first team. He also singled out the play of fourth-string quarterback Josh Russell and freshman tight end Rob Austin, who enjoyed solid afternoons.

Defensively, redshirt freshman linebacker Leverne Johnson led the way with nine tackles and a pass broken up, while sophomore defensive lineman Demarcus Ware had seven tackles and a sack and safety Derrick Ansley six tackles and two passes broken up. Freshman linebacker Bernard Davis also enjoyed a productive afternoon, recording six tackles and a sack.

Blakeney said he was pleased with the energy of his young linebackers.

"They are all energetic," he said. "They seem to know a little about what is going on. We’ve got some who can play. It just needed to become second nature to be where they need to be on the field every play so they can make plays."

The team has just five practice dates remaining, with the team’s annual "T-Day" spring game set for next Saturday at Richard M. Scrushy Field. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

Other highlights on Saturday included: Deloise Moore, who was recruited as a running back but was later converted to a safety and then linebacker, had four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and a pass broken up from his second-team LB position redshirt freshman Johnny Faulk had two blocked field goal attempts, one of which was returned for a TD

junior defensive lineman Eric Thomas, who is filling in for the injured Davern Williams this spring, had five tackles and a pair of sacks

seniors Deiric Jackson and Naazir Yamini each recorded an interception

sophomore running back Jermaine Richardson, who missed last season due to academics, rushed eight times for 46 yards with the second- and third-team units

senior LeBarron Black rushed eight times for 29 yards with the first team offense

all three offensive units combined to produce 17 plays of 10 yards or more

punter Lance Lieb averaged 36 yards per kick on four attempts with a long of 44 yards, while Roger Ridgeway averaged 37 yards on two punts with a long of 40.