Defense Dominates Scrimmage Late On Saturday

For about two-thirds of the Saturday morning scrimmage on April 15, it appeared the Herd offense was playing the role of the IRS and the defense was the helpless taxpayer. Then, as if H&R Block had come to the rescue, the defense turned the (tax) tables and sent blitzers from the left, right and middle. At the end, the defense won the scrimmage both on the scoreboard, 62-47, and in the feelings of players from both sides of the ball in the Herd's last significant spring scrimmage.

Not that the offense didn't get the scrimmage started with a bang. No sooner than the ball was set and snapped had junior running back Ahmad Bradshaw burst through the right side of the first-team defense, sprinting out of arm tackles and out-running the defense for an 80-yard opening touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. "It was just a toss play," said Bradshaw, "and the offensive line got out there and did the work. I was able to use my speed to cut back for the touchdown, but I give the line all the credit." The defense was stunned, but began to recover on the second series when Chubb Small took a three-yard loss on a mis-handled pitch from Bernard Morris, and then two plays later Morris was sacked for the first of four times on the day by defensive end Shavar Greer. Greer would record three sacks and seven tackles total on the day.

When asked what got into the offense, a frustrated Bernie Morris had a quick answer. "What got into us was the blitz," said the junior quarterback. "We didn't pick up the sacks and lost the early momentum." Morris, who Coach Mark Snyder said he would place just a little ahead of seniors Derek Devine, who got many snaps with the first team, and Jimmy Skinner, was upset both on the field, spiking the ball after one sack, and was still upset after the scrimmage. "I hate losing," said the quarterback of the defensive rally to win the scrimmage. "It's a privledge to wear these green jerseys (which the offense won in last week's scrimmage at Charleston), but today, we gave up."

Morris did tip his hat to the defense, who trailed in the scrimmage 42-36 after 99 plays, allowing two Bradshaw touchdowns and three field goals on six attempts (with one block, by senior safety Curtis Keyes). The defense won the bulk of the final 36 plays, including Dennis Thorton recovering a fumble that was forced at the one-yard line by C.J. Spillman on a hit on Bradshaw; a Geremy Rodamer interception; and four sacks, and nine plays for minus or zero yards, in the final segments at mid-field. ""Those guys got it going on the sidelines, they really picked up the intensity," said Morris. "I was getting on guys for missed assignments. I think we have worked hard all spring and things have gone pretty well. The youngsters have picked up the stuff pretty well and I think we'll be ready to pick it up in two-a-days and go." Snyder echoed his quarterback about intensity going a long way. "The lesson learned today is about emotion and enthusiasm," said Snyder. "Football is about emotion, but we've got to start with it. We can't wait until we're 14 or 15 points down, like today, before we get going. You look at the sidelines when you look at film...without knowing the score, you can tell who's winning." Snyder was not completely down on the offense, though. While he was hoping for a little better performance out of Devine with the first-team offense (11 attempts, four completions, one interception, 47 yards), he was obviously pleased with Bradshaw (16 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns) and back-up running back Paco Jones.

"Paco had a real good day," said Snyder. "He put his foot down and made some people miss today." Jones rushed for 96 yards on 19 carries, plus caught two passes for 35 yards including the long reception of the day of 29 yards from Devine on a wheel route. "I was just running hard and the offensive line was opening lanes," said the junior from Bluefield, W.Va. Jones knows there is a log-jam at running back with Bradshaw, Small, Gerwin Williams and himself. "All I can do is work hard. You never know, and I hope nothing happens to anyone, but you have to be ready if called."

Another young player who had a great day was red-shirt freshman safety John Saunders, from nearby Cabell Midland High School in Ona, W.Va. Saunders led all defenders with 12 tackles on the day, working mostly with the first-team defense. He also had a tackle-for-loss and broke up a pass on the final play of the scrimmage to seal the defensive win. "Coach is giving everyone a shot (with the ones)," said Saunders. "We were not warmed up early on in the scrimmage, but we warmed up towards the end of the day and really picked it up." Not only is the secondary very young this year, with only Curtis Keyes as a returning starter, but the Herd d-backs also had a new position coach in Paul Nichols. "Coach Nichols pushes us," said Saunders of the former Ohio State assistant. "He really is strict about our alignments, but also real enthusiastic. The more we practice together, the better we will become."

The Herd will practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as they prepare for the Green-White Game next Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium. A record crowd of 10,000-20,000 is expected for the Quarterback Club fundraiser next week. Warner Brothers will film the crowd for use in the "We Are Marshall" movie, coming out in December. The 1996 team will have a reunion next weekend, and will tailgate on the West Lot before the game. Over 90 percent of the 1996 roster, including NFL stars like Chad Pennington, Randy Moss and John Wade are expected to attend, along with former MU head coach Bobby Pruett, according to Bryan Reed, a guard for the Herd from 1994-97 and coordinator of the reunion event. Members of the 15-0 National and Southern Conference Championship will be on the sidelines for the game and will call some plays, according to current Herd head coach Mark Snyder.

Rushing: Bradshaw 16/141, 2 TD, fumble/lost; P. Jones 19/96; Will Albin 17/38; B. Morris 10 (-12), 4 sacks; Skinner 3 (-16), two sacks, fumble/recovered; Devine 3 (-9); Wesley Beardain 2 (-4), fumble/recovered. Total: 70/234, 2 TD, 6 sacks, 3 fumbles/one lost.
Passing: Morris 14-8-0, 64 yards; Skinner 9-2-1, 24 yards; Devine 11-4-1, 47 yards; Beardain 11-3-0, 32 yards (skeleton only for Beardain). Total: 45-17-2 interceptions, 167 yards, 0 TD.
Receiving: Shawn Lauzon 6-65; P. Jones 2-35; Emanuel Spann 2-21; Mike Nolan 2-9; Darryl Jones 1-15; Robert Surratt 1-12; Malcolm Ames 1-10; cody Slate 1-0; Bradshaw 1-(-1).
Field Goals: Ian O'Connor 2-for-4 (24, 38), one blocked; Anthony Binswanger 1-for-2 (32).
Penalties: 12/(-72); Offense 8/(-38); Defense 4/(-34).
Defense: Saunders 12 TKL, PBU, TFL; Thorton 11 TKL, TFL, 2 FR (30 yards-returns); Keyes 9 TKL, FG BLK, QBP; Maurice Kitchens 8 TKL; Shavar Greer 7 TKL, 3 QBS; James Johnson 6 TKL, 2 PBU; Albert McClellan 6 TKL, QBS, QBP, PBU; Jeff Bush 6 TKL, 2 TFL; Matt Couch 5 TKL, QBP; Bilal El-Amin 5 TKL, TFL; John Jacobs 5 TKL, TFL; Brandon Souder 5 TKL, TFL; Jeremy Frazie 5 TKL, 2 TFL, PBU; C.J. Spillman 4 TKL, FF; E.J. Rascoe 4 TKL, 2 QBS, 2 TFL, Safety; Blake Merritt 4 TKL, FR; Ian Hoskins 4 TKL, INT; Davis 3 TKL, QBS; Chuck Roberts 3 TKL; Phillip Gamble 3 TKL, TFL; Colin Kelly 3 TKL; Daniel Wells 3 TKL; Terrick Thomas 2 TKL, PBU; Jon Moravec 2 TKL; Rodamer TKL, INT; Byron Tinker TKL; Zerrick Mathews TKL, PBU; Jason Kaminski TKL, TFL; Peter Graziani TKL; O'Connor TKL; Doug Legurski TKL; Ivan Clark QBP; Curtis Overson PBU (TKL-tackles; TFL-tackles for loss; PBU-passes broken up; INT-interceptions; QBS-quarterback sacks; QBP-quarterback pressures; FF-forced fumble; FR-fumble recovered; FG BLK-field goal blocked).

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