Blue Raiders show progress in 91-play scrimmage

April 1, 2006 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Everyone involved with Middle Tennessee's football program had reason to feel good about themselves following Saturday morning's 91-play scrimmage that capped week three of spring drills.

Blue Raider first-year coach Rick Stockstill said he continues to see progress in all areas of his team heading into the final week of spring practice.

"Coming into it I told them we were looking for some leadership, we were looking for some playmakers - guys who can make plays on both sides of the ball and eliminate our penalties that we have been having, and then play with some enthusiasm," said Stockstill. "Looking into it, I thought we had some guys who made a couple plays. Pierre Ingram made some plays. I thought Rod Taylor made a couple of nice plays but then he drops a touchdown pass so it kind of nullifies the other stuff. Taron Henry made a play on a touchdown pass, but then he dropped a post that could have been a touchdown early. We have to get a little more consistent, but we did reduce our penalties, the mental penalties, so I thought our concentration was better than it has been so that was an improvement.

"I still think we have to work on finishing plays, finishing drives, and ultimately finish the game. Offensively, we came out and drove down to the 15 or 20, but we can't punch it in and that's a credit to the defense. They gave up some big chunks early but they got down there and bowed their neck and stuffed the offense pretty good."

The defense dictated play early in the scrimmage by holding the offense to only one scoring drive in the game's first nine possessions to go along with two three and outs. During the nine-possession stretch, the defense recorded five of its seven sacks, three tackles for loss and three pass breakups.

"We are coaching these guys hard and they are getting better every day and that's all you can ask for as a coach," said Stockstill. "There were a lot of positive things out here today on defense. We are not even close to where we need to be but we are making strides every day of getting there. "I thought we made some nice plays on defense. We had some deflections. Roy Polite should have had an interception back there, but he dropped it. That's what I told them after the practice - you never know which play will be the difference in the game. It could be the first play; it may be the last play. You have to play every play like it's the difference in the game."

Linebacker J.K. Sabb and defensive end Tavares Jones had monster days. Sabb recorded three sacks and two pass breakups, while Jones added a sack and three pass breakups.

"We just came out and tried to run the blitzes that were called, get lined up, and just do our job," said Sabb. "Coach (Manny) Diaz put me in a good position and was blitzing me so when he calls my number I have to make the plays."

Offensively, the Blue Raiders struggled early but turned things around following a break midway through the scrimmage. After changing fields, the offense went three and out in its first possession then scored on four straight.

Quarterback Clint Marks, running back Eugene Gross, and receivers Pierre Ingram and Taron Henry all had standout performances. Marks completed 15-of-25 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns while Gross rushed for 100 yards on 15 carries.

Henry led all receivers with five receptions and a touchdown and Ingram added four catches. Rod Taylor and Dale Galvin also had four catches each.

"We looked good today and it seems like we brought it together," said Marks. "In the past maybe the quarterback wasn't making a good pass or maybe it was a good throw and the receiver dropped it, but today it seemed like everyone did their job for the most part and we were consistent."

Another positive on the offensive side of the ball was the fact the unit did not commit a turnover. For the third straight scrimmage, the Blue Raider quarterbacks did not throw an interception.

"We stress everyday about the importance of protecting the football," said Stockstill. "We did a nice job today in that area and it is something we can build off of as we enter our summer workouts."

The Blue Raiders will practice Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday before concluding spring practice with the Blue-White Game on Saturday at 1 PM. Entering the final week of drills, Stockstill is pleased with his team's progress.

"The big thing, knock on wood, is we are pretty healthy after 11 practices," said Stockstill. "We were able to get Bradley (Robinson) and DeMarco (McNair) back today so we are getting some guys back. We are able to coach most of the guys that we are counting on next year right now. We are missing (Brandon) Perry and Chris Anderson, a couple of those guys, but a majority of the kids are out here."

Other Scrimmage Quotes
WR Pierre Ingram: "I think I made a positive step today, but I have to keep improving. I can not drop balls and I have to play with more consistency. I need to build trust."

OT Germayle Franklin: "The offense started slow today but we picked it up later in the scrimmage. It's been a tough process for the offensive line to learn the new system but we are coming along pretty good as you could see today."

RB Eugene Gross on his 29-yard touchdown run: "The offensive line did a good job getting off the blocks. I saw the lane to the back side, came through the hole pretty hard, kind of leaned to one side and then just side-stepped the free safety and took it in for the score."

J.K. Sabb on Saturday's third scrimmage of the spring workouts: "It was the best of the three scrimmages we have had all around. The offense came out and threw the ball well and ran the ball well. (Eugene) Gross really ran the ball well and I thought offensive linemen Germayle Franklin and Franklin Dunbar did real well today. We just came out and had fun. I thought we did some good things on defense, too. We came out and made plays. It was a good morning."

Scoring Summary
Jonathan Grigsby 17 pass from Clint Marks (No PAT Attempt)
Eugene Gross 29 run (Colby Smith PAT)
Taron Henry 14 pass from Clint Marks (Matt King PAT)
Rod Taylor 8 pass from Patrick Jackson (Colby Smith PAT)
Eugene Gross 2 run (Matt King PAT)
DeMarco McNair 1 run (during lone goal line series)

Clint Marks: 15-of-25, 165 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Patrick Jackson: 11-of-23, 104 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Taron Henry: 5 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD
Pierre Ingram: 4 catches, 51 yards
Rod Taylor: 4 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD
Dale Galvin: 4 catches, 44 yards
Jay Robinson: 2 catches, 21 yards
Eugene Gross: 2 catches, 16 yards
Michael Cannon: 2 catches, 6 yards
Jonathan Grigsby: 1 catch, 17 yards, 1 TD
Patrick Honeycutt: 1 catch, 8 yards
DeMarco McNair: 1 catch, 7 yards

Eugene Gross: 15 carries, 100 yards, 2 TDs
DeMarco McNair: 17 carries, 24 yards
Josh Dutton: 1 carry, -1 yard

Defensive Highlights
Quarterback Sacks: J.K. Sabb (3), Chance Dunleavy, Erik Walden, Tarvares Jones, Chris McCoy
Tackles for Loss: Ralpheal Ousley (2), Justin Rainey, Trevor Jenkins
Pass Breakups: Tavares Jones (3), J.K. Sabb (2), Erik Walden

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