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Defense prevails in annual Blue-White Spring Game

White wins 44-27 over Blue; Akins with two interceptions

April 19, 2014 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Shon Akins came up with two interceptions, leading a parade of four turnovers forced by the Blue Raider defense at the annual Blue-White Spring Game, as the White team (defense) won 44-27 in the game held this year at Dean A. Hayes Stadium.

Akins and Chris Sharpe tallied first-half interceptions to give the defense a commanding lead they would not surrender, holding a Blue Raider offense in check that used a rotation of quarterbacks throughout the afternoon. Alex Dale would come up with the ball on a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter for the third turnover forced by the Blue Raider defense, while Akins tallied his second pick on the final play of the game. Jahmal Jones had a team-high six tackles for the White team.

Austin Grammer led the Blue squad with 125 yards in the air and one touchdown on an efficient 8-of-11 passing. Tony Rowland ran for 114 yards on 23 carries, both team-highs, while Terry Pettis had a team-best 74 yards receiving along with a touchdown reception.

Cody Clark scored the first points for the Blue team via a field goal before Akins picked off a ball to give White an 11-3 lead late in the first quarter. Austin Grammer would hit Terry Pettis for a 49-yard touchdown to cut it to 18-10 before Sharpe's interception made it 22-10 White heading into halftime.

White led 29-10 to begin the second half before Jordan Willis chipped into the deficit, making a quick move to his right to elude a defender, getting into the end zone to make it 29-17. Canon Rooker would add a field goal to cut it 29-20 through three quarters.

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Leading 36-20 at the beginning of the third quarter, White would add to the lead with Dale's fumble recovery. Chukwadi Echetebu would run it in from eight yards out with 22 seconds to go to bring it within 40-27 before Akins picked off a hail mary on the final play of the game.

The White team is now 7-2 all-time in the spring game under Stockstill.

Saturday's festivities marked the end of the 2014 spring season. The Blue Raiders will open summer camp on August 3 in preparation for the season opener at home on August 30.

2014 Spring Practice Awards

Terry Whiteside Award (Excellence in academics, football, strength training, community service, and campus activities): Reggie Whatley
Dr. Sidney A. McPhee Senior Academic Award: Leighton Gasque
Dr. James E. Walker Junior Academic Award: Jordan Frost-Dixon
Dr. Don Craig Sophomore Academic Award: Josh Chester
Jeanne Massaquoi Freshman Academic Award: Lucas Hamilton
Most Improved Quarterback: Nolan Genovese
Most Improved Running Back: Kamani Thomas
Most Improved Wide Receiver: Demetrius Frazier
Most Improved Offensive Line: Adam Stickel
Most Improved Defensive Line: Shaquille Huff
Most Improved Linebacker: Anfornee Stewart
Most Improved Safety: Chris Brown
Most Improved Corner: Mike Minter
Most Improved Strength Training Quarterback: A.J. Erdely
Most Improved Strength Training Running Back: Kamani Thomas
Most Improved Strength Training Wide Receiver: Shannon Smith
Most Improved Strength Training Offensive Line: Josh Chester
Most Improved Strength Training Defensive Line: Jimal McBride
Most Improved Strength Training Linebacker: James Roberson
Most Improved Strength Training Safety: Xavier Walker
Most Improved Strength Training Corner: Jared Singletary
Most Improved Strength Training Specialist: Canon Rooker

QUOTES:

Head Coach Rick Stockstill:

Opening Comments:
Both offensively and defensively, I thought we made improvement, individually and collectively as a team. I was pleased with it.

We got out of here today healthy, which was really the main objective today to be honest. I was pleased with how spring went.

On specific goals for the spring game and spring season:
Probably the two biggest areas we spent the most time on and I felt we needed to improve on were red zone offense and third down defense. So we worked on a lot of situations like that during the spring and I thought we got better on both sides of the ball.

On the three quarterback situation and who the starter will be:
I was really pleased with all three of them. I think we can win with all three of them. They all got better throughout the spring. We'll just go through the summer and then in August, I'll make a decision before the Savannah State game.

On the defensive performance:
I thought we did some good things defensively. I thought today, offensively we did some good things. We're more experienced on the defensive side of the ball right now. I think we're really fast on defense and I thought our speed and athleticism showed up today.

Defensive End Alexandro Antoine:

On having a good pass rush:
It's just things I've been working on this spring, making sure I get my hips turned around. I've been working on my hands and stuff like that.

On the difficulty of getting sacs on this offense with running QBs:
Yeah, all three of them can run and at the same time they get it off quick. Even during the regular season other teams don't get too many sacks against because they get the ball off so quick.

On treating this game like a real game:
The things Coach (Tyrone) Nix instilled in us, nothing is just a practice game. Every time we come out here it's serious. We're fighting.

On rubbing it in that the defense won today:
No, we're not rubbing it in. We just love each other and as a defense we're bonding. We're not rubbing it in anyone's face.

Quarterback Austin Grammer

On today's spring game...
I thought we did some things well offensively, and we did some things not-so-well. We had a couple fumbles. I think we need to protect the ball better but for the most part I think we did a good job. We moved around a lot of guys around today so it was good to see those guys learning and picking up some new things so overall it went really well.

On the quarterback competition...
I still think it's neck and neck with those other two guys. They're great quarterbacks and we'll have a tough battle all the way through the summer and fall camp competing just like we have been all spring.

On waiting till the season opener to find out who will start...
I guess we'll have to wait. I think we'll be anxious because we'll all want to know, but I also think we'll have a good feel by that time who the guy will be. But we'll find out soon enough.

On throwing a touchdown pass today...
I think that will help with confidence but I think there are a lot of things that people don't see that will determine who will be the starter. Things like making the right reads, making the right checks at the line, those things will really impress the coaching staff.

Wide Receiver Terry Pettis

On touchdown...
When he first through it I saw the corner drop down and safety roll over so I knew it was going to be open. I just had to make the catch and Austin threw a good ball.

On taking over at the receiver position...
Just a little bit but not enough. I've been able to grow some confidence with guys like Collis not in there playing right now. But it'll be tough once those guys get back healthy. I did O.K. today but I could always do better.

On the defense today...
They played really well today. They had a couple interceptions and did a lot of good things. It's a little bitter sweet in a game like this because when they play well that means you're not playing well as an offense. But when that carries over to the fall we'll be really excited because that means we'll get a lot more opportunities as an offense to go win games.

Cornerback Chris Sharpe

On today's performance...
I feel good about our defense. Coach Nix emphasized taking advantage of opportunities and we did that today. We got a lot of turnovers and played well. But we have to keep it up as we go through the summer and into fall camp.

On getting better forcing turnovers throughout the spring...
From the first scrimmage to know I believe we're more aggressive in tackling and also attacking the ball in the air. Coach Nix emphasizes that a lot. So that's made a big difference.

On turnovers...
We're not going to rub it in anyone's face, we just want to keep improving and keep getting better so we can prove we're one of the best defenses in the nation this fall.

On the defensive line...
They played really well today and I feel like that's why we were able to get so many turnovers. When you can get that much pressure on the quarterback it forces him to make throws he doesn't want to make, so that means we can get to more balls as defense backs.

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