MU Spring Football: Practice Eight

Marshall got an earlier start for Saturday's scrimmage at Edwards Stadium, hitting the wet turf at 9:30 a.m. with the temperature in the low 40's. The Herd offense looked a bit chilly as well in the early going, turning the ball over on the third play from scrimmage and six times all told. As the sun poked through, later in the practice, the offensive players began to get going. Marshall's green shirts scored six times in the final 20 plays from scrimmage in the first full scrimmage of spring.

"We came out at 9:30 this morning, a little cold, a little slick," said interim head coach Larry Kueck following the 86-play workout. "But as we went, the thing I liked was the defense making (the offense) turn it over and then the offense not turning it over. It's kind of a different deal for me (as head coach), I got a little bit jacked up about turnovers. I've always sat over there on offense griping. Chris Royal, you almost get surprised when he doesn't get a turnover, he's got a nose for the ball. The thing that effected the offense most was having only seven offensive linemen going."

Royal, the free safety for the Herd, picked off a Jimmy Skinner pass intended for Marcus Fitzgerald and returned it 38-yards for a defensive score about two-thirds through the scrimmage. "I don't care if you are playing sandlot," said Kueck, "a defensive touchdown is a big play." Royal, who had four tackles, also recovered a fumble from tight end Brian Shope, forced by cornerback Willie Smith, and returned that ball for five yards. In all, the defense had six take-aways: two by Royal, and fumble recoveries by defensive tackle Blake Merritt, defensive ends DeMarcus Thomas (four tackles) and Shavar Greer (also a pass-broken-up) and linebacker Maurice Kitchens (five tackles).

Recording "sacks" (quarterbacks were not tackled, but these players put a hand on QB in backfield) were defensive ends Gavin Herscher (one tackle) and Byron Tinker (two sacks and a team-high seven tackles), as well as defensive tackle Adrian Davis (four tackles). Red-shirt safety Jon Moravec had a pass-broken-up (three tackles), as did UNC transfer and senior corner Chris Hawkins, who took a touchdown away from Shawn Lauzon on a perfect 33-yard pass from Morris. Marshall also got six tackles each from middle linebacker Matt Couch and strong safety Curtis Keyes. "Early on, we started off strong. I believe we may have lost concentration," said Keyes, the Herd's leading returning tackler with 108 stops last year. "The main thing coach said was to go out, have fun and learn, and I think I did that today. The defense overall may be faster than last year and the front seven improves every practice." Keyes is impressed with his returning partner in the secondary in Chris Royal having another big day. "Royal was doing what he does best; picking off balls and making plays. Hopefully, he will continue and I'll do what I can do to help out."

The offense had some stars on the day as well. Junior quarterback Jimmy Skinner hit on his first five consecutive passes and finished with 11 attempts, eight completions and 68 yards passing. Sophomore Bernard Morris started just 2-for-4, but finished strong with two touchdowns in his last three throws, including 20-yard score to Fitzgerald and a laser thrown in a crowd to senior tight end Jeff Mullins in the end zone for a six-yard score. Morris finished with 15 attempts, also had eight completions, and threw for 50 yards and two scores. Junior college transfer Derek Devine mis-fired on his first three passes, then hit six of his last seven for 10-6-0 and 34 yards.

Once the offense was in the "red zone" (20-yard line), they were very good, scoring on six of 20 plays. Rushing touchdowns came for sophomore Ahmad Bradshaw from 12-yards away and he rushed 11 times for 38 yards. Red-shirt freshman Gerwin Williams led all rushers on the day (13-for-39) and scored from one and three yards away. Sophomore Will Albin (10-for-18) finished off the scrimmage with a one-yard scoring run. The backs, including junior Tank Tunstalle (7-for-26) rushed 44 times for 124 yards, but the Herd lost 28 yards on four sacks and 21 yards on a bad snap by sophomore center Nate Howard, over the head of Morris and recovered by D. Thomas. The backs also lost three fumbles and had five in all on the wet Astroturf.

The receiving game was headed up by slot receivers Fitzgerald (3-for-24, TD) and Matt Morris (leading all receivers with 5-for-27), who was thrown at nine times in the scrimmage. The best numbers, however, went to Bradshaw, who split time at receiver and catching balls out of the backfield for a total of five catches for 57 yards. Bradshaw had 95 yards in total offense on 16 plays, an average of nearly six yards per play. Tight end Shope caught three balls for 14 yards while converted running back Chubb Small, from Hargrave Military Academy, had one catch for 11 yards.

"We were making plays, then the defense came back and made plays," said Skinner following the scrimmage. "I think both sides got a lot of good out of the workout." Skinner praised the work of the thin offensive line of the Herd, basically playing seven players. "I thought the O-line did good, we ran the ball really well. Ahmad really stuck out today, made a lot of big plays today. He ran well and caught the ball well down field. Today was a good confidence booster for me, too. We've really come far mentally since the first practice." Marshall will be back at practice on Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. in sweat pants, then have another contact practice on Wednesday morning. The Herd Football Coaches Clinic will be Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. at the Shewey Athletic Facility (there is a minimal cost--call the MU football office at 304-696-6464), followed by an afternoon practice. Marshall will hold its annual off campus practice at South Charleston's Oakes Field next Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The Green-White Game is April 16 at 4:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, with ticket sales benefitting the MU Quarterback Club.
RUSHING: Gerwin Williams 13/39 2TD; Ahmad Bradshaw 11/38 TD; Will Albin 10/18 TD; Tank Tunstalle 7/26; Antoine Cabarrus 1/(-2); Derek Devine 1/1; Bernard Morris 1/4; TOTAL 44/124.
SACKS/LOSSES: Devine 1/(-7); Morris 2/(-14); Jimmy Skinner 1/(-7); Team 1/(-21); TOTAL 5/-49.
RECEIVING: Bradshaw 5-57; Matt Morris 5-27; Marcus Fitzgerald 3-24 TD; Brian Shope 3-14; Jeff Mullins 2-10 TD; Chubb Small 1-11; Joe Bragg 1-7; Albin 1-3; Tunstalle 1-(-2); TOTAL 22-152 2TD.
PASSING: Skinner 11-8-1, 68 yards; Morris 15-8-0, 50 yards, 2TD; Devine 10-6-0, 34 yards; TOTAL 36-22-1, 152, 2TD.
TACKLES: Byron Tinker-7; Matt Couch-6; Curtis Keyes-6; Maurice Kitchens-5; Dennis Thornton-5; Chris Royal-4; DeMarcus Thomas-4; Terick Thomas-4; Roger Garrett-4; Adrian Davis-4; Scott Wilks-3; Floyd Wright-3; Jon Moravec-3; Geremy Rodamer-3; Willie Smith-2; Jason Kaminski-2; Terry Easmon-2; Jeremy Frazie-2; Gavin Herscher-1; Travis Noel-1; Ian Hoskins-1; TOTAL 72 tackles.
SACKS: Tinker-two; Davis; Herscher; TOTAL 4.
FORCED FUMBLES: W. Smith; Kaminski; TOTAL 2.
FUMBLES RECOVERD: Blake Merritt; Royal; D. Thomas; Shavar Greer; Kitchen; TOTAL 5.
PASSES-BROKEN-UP: Moravec; Chris Hawkins; Greer; TOTAL 3.

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