Annual spring football game displays promise
In an offense versus offense matchup, the White defense emerged the victor on the scoreboard over the blue offense, 40-17.
“Who won was not the objective,” coach Rick Stockstill said. “I wanted to see us come out and play hard and improve in some areas we need to improve on.”
Blue started off with the opening possession, in which junior running back Benjamin Cunningham touched the ball half of the snaps, marching down the field for a touchdown pass from Logan Kilgore to Kyle Griswould from eight yards out.
Kilgore, a redshirt junior who is looking to begin his second season as the squad’s starting quarterback, completed 15 of 26 throws along with a touchdown and looked confident and more patient in the pocket under a newly-orchestrated offense.
“It’s a completely different offense,” Kilgore said. “I got full control, and I couldn’t ask for anymore. I’m extremely excited.”
Kilgore’s efforts to protect his job have not gone unnoticed.
“Logan has had a good spring,” Stockstill said. “I think he has protected the ball good.”
Anthony Amos displayed the potential to be this upcoming seasons deep threat.
Targeted six times and tied at five with the most receptions, Amos covered 81 yards, with one spectacular catch in between two cornerbacks, stretching the defense for 40 yards.
Middle Tennessee’s ground game had its ups and downs. Cunningham and Drayton Calhoun, sharing the rock with eight and six carries respectively, hope to form a two-headed monster come September.
Calhoun rushed for 39 yards, one from a designed draw play that went 14 yards converting on a third down for the blue squad, but was also forced into a goal-line fumble by redshirt junior linebacker Roderic Blunt.
Cunningham ran for 27 yards on eight attempts.
With quarterback Jeff Murphy injured from an ACL tear, freshman second-stringer Shawn White stepped in and was an impressive behind center.
White completed 14-of-28 for 140 yards and directed a touchdown drive featuring a 27-yard completion to Harold Turner Jr. and a Kennedy McGruder endzone run from one yard out. White and Kilgore each threw one interception.
The 17 points from the blue offense resulted from 484 total yards, 373 stemming from the air.
On the other side of the ball, the defense displayed tremendous improvement under newly-acquired co-defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who has implemented his philosophy into a suspect defense that gave up nearly 37 points per contest in the previous campaign.
Under nontraditional scoring rules, the White team was granted seven points at the start of every quarter, and four points for each forced turnover. Forcing a fumble inside the goal line and creating two interceptions, the defense cashed in on 12 points outside of the automatic 28 awarded throughout the contest.
After allowing 10 points via a touchdown and a field goal, the white defense stepped up, only allowing one more touchdown early in the second half.
“The whole defense went out there with enthusiasm today,” cornerback Khari Burke said. “The offense came out with a bang, but we recovered. Leadership from Dearco [Nolan], Omar [McClendon] and the veterans on the team boosted us up and we came out and competed after that.”
Freshman Leighton Gasque and Blunt, each with seven tackles to their names, led the young linebacking core.
Nolan led the defense with two sacks. Jerrold Frazier, Shubert Bastien, and Gasque also contributed with a sack of their own.
“There’s a chip on our shoulder from last season,” Nolan said. “We’re not going to be the same team from last season. This taste is still in our mouth, and we got a new bigger chip on our shoulder and we’re going to come out and dominate every chance we get.”
In the secondary, Burke took one of Kilgore’s throws the other way for 33 yards during the third quarter.
John Kelly also picked off a pass, however he was immediately tackled after White’s interception.
The white defense tallied 8 pass deflections, coming from 8 different players.
“I like our mindset,” Stockstill said. “We got a long way to go. We are not close yet. If they’ll continue with this attitude and the effort they’ve given, then they have a chance to accomplish our goals.”