Offense Strikes Late To Win Spring Scrimmage, 35-27

April 9, 2005 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Eugene Gross hauled in a 37-yard pass from senior quarterback Josh Harris on the final play of the "Blue-White" scrimmage to give the White squad a 35-27 in front of an estimated 500 fans at Floyd Stadium Saturday afternoon.

However, upon further review, the defense, which is the blue squad, believes it was jilted out of a 28-27 win based on a scoring system devised for the spring scrimmage and Middle Tennessee Head Coach Andy McCollum couldn't disagree in the aftermath of what was a competitive morning of football.

Based on the scoring system, the defense received one point for forcing a punt. Tied 27-27 with under a minute remaining, the offense faced a fourth-and-6 play at the defense's 44-yard-line. By converting the fourth-down play, the white team (offense) picked up one point to take a 28-27 advantage.

"That's where I messed up," McCollum said. "We had a rule that the offense could only go for a fourth down inside the 40 and they weren't inside the 40 but I let them go for it and they converted. The offense should not have been able to go for it and the punt would have been a point for the defense. I let the offense run another four plays to give the defense a chance to force one more punt and have it end in a tie but it didn't work out that way."

The defense held the offense to no yards on three straight plays to set up a fourth-and-10 from the 37. A stop would have resulted in a 28-28 tie, but Harris found Gross down the sideline and connected with the tailback for a 37-yard strike and the game-winner.

"That play had been there three or four times today and it was wide open there," Harris said. "I just laid the ball out there and (Gross) ran and caught it for the touchdown. There was a lot of pride on the line because this was the last scrimmage of the spring so now we have bragging rights all summer."

Junior quarterback Clint Marks led the Middle Tennessee offense by completing 14-of-20 passes for 207 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Cleannord Saintil, while Harris was 4-of-9 for 55 yards and a touchdown. Patrick Jackson finished 4-of-8 for 35 yards and connected with Jonathan Grigsby for a 15-yard scoring pass. Redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Craddock finished the scrimmage 4-of-7 for 70 yards and threw the game's only interception, which was hauled in by Damon Nickson.

"There was a lot of competition out there. I went into today's scrimmage like it was a real game," Marks said. "Even when I wasn't in the game I was hollering and trying to make things happen. I tip my hat to the offensive line because they blocked great and the receivers ran good routes and got open. I just wanted to help lead my team to as many points as I could."

DeMarco McNair paced the ground game with 61 yards on 11 carries, while Gross finished with 30 yards on eight carries; however, Gross also demonstrated his versatility by hauling in four receptions for 75 yards, including the 37-yard scoring pass.

Several receivers turned heads with big plays as five different pass catchers had three or more receptions, led by Grigsby's four grabs for 59 yards. Chris Henry (3-42), Taron Henry (3-19) and Pierre Ingram (3-35) each had three catches, while Saintil finished with two catches for 69 yards.

"We had several different receivers step up and makes strides this spring," Ingram said. "We have to keep working through the summer and make sure we are all on the same page with the quarterbacks but I saw a lot of positives throughout the spring."

Antoine Owens led the Middle Tennessee defense with three sackes, while Sean Mosely and Tavares Jones each had one sack. Keon Raymond, Dennis Burke and Devarick Scandrett each had one tackle for loss, while linebacker Chance Dunleavy finished with nine total tackles.

"Our goal was to play a complete game and I think we came close," Burke said. "We focused on not giving up big plays this spring and we did give up a couple today, which is unacceptable, but we made progress. We finished drives and we got off the field. That was a focus point of the spring and we have a lot of confidence to carry into the summer and into fall camp."

In addition to touchdowns passes hauled in by Saintil, Taron Henry and Gross, Colby Smith connected on both of his field-goal tries, one from 40 yards and the other from 36 yards out.

Passing: Marks 14-20-0 207; J. Harris 4-9-0 55, Jackson 4-8-0 35; Craddock 4-7-1 35.
Rushing: McNair 11-61, Gross 8-30, Harris 6-4, A. Webb 1-4, King 1-minus 1, Marks 2-6, Craddock 2-minus 22.
Receiving: Ingram 3-35, C. Henry 3-42, T. Henry 3-19, Grigsby 4-59, Bell 1-15, Saintil 2-69, Paschall 2-5, McNair 1-6, Gross 4-75. Corder 2-26.

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