The remaining three days of campus camp and all the practicing at Memphis will be for that game. So this was the last real chance for a lot of reserves and redshirts to make an impression before spring football. These pups certainly tried their best, while just about the entire starting team and other seniors watched, and laughed, and joked. Or ran gassers every now and then just to keep a little focus.
There were a couple of exceptions to that participation policy, mostly to keep numbers a bit balanced for the offense. For that matter rising receiving star De'Runnya Wilson is still learning the sport, so never mind that he started the last game of the season. Wilson scrimmaged Tuesday and made his presence known with two touchdown catches.
Both were thrown by #2 quarterback Damian Williams, who himself was a pinch-starter in the Egg Bowl victory. And had the officials not been told to use a quick whistle on quarterback keepers Williams would have run wild at times. Instead things stayed somewhat under control, though the Maroons ran away with three fast touchdowns before reserve teams took over.
The most unique #3 quarterback in anyone's bowl camp this week wasn't allowed to run intentionally. So true freshman Nick Fitzgerald, on just his fourth day of college football, had to hang in longer than he would have been doing a few weeks ago in high school. The result was taking a lot of whistle-sacks and negative yardage for the new kid. Fitzgerald cannot play in the Liberty Bowl so today was his last real experience of camp. But the number of snaps given him indicates some faith for his future here.
Starting quarterback Dak Prescott took off his helmet after warmups and spent the morning coaching up Fitzgerald and Williams. His starting-squad peers on offense, like top two backs LaDarius Perkins and Josh Robinson, were excused as well, just like the whole starting defense. Even the regular specialists had the morning free, other than some holding duty by P Baker Swedenburg for walk-on placekickers. One of whom, not wearing a uniform number or name, hit a 40-yarder for the first White points.
The other, a touchdown pass to tight end B.J. Hammond from Sam Cowart, came at the end of the scrimmaging.
The day's defensive standout was easily reserve end John Harris, credited unofficially (very unofficially as were all statistics kept by media) with 13 tackles. Four of them were sacks with two more hurries. Since all this was done against a reserve offensive line some perspective was required.
Mullen's mostly. This wasn't about impacting anyone's position going into the Liberty Bowl, or for that matter the off-season. It was a reward, the coach said.
"Guys who work hard all year and maybe don't get a lot of the game reps in the stadium. So you got to see a lot of those guys get out there and play. And young guys that are going to be out here playing for us next year, to get their opportunity to get a game situation or scrimmage situation here in the stadium."
Were there any things or people that stood out today? "No. I mean I liked that our guys had fun, they played hard. And these guys love to play. When you get to play in more of a game situation today it's a lot more fun. Sometimes you have to break practice up, it can get monotonous for the guys. So it is their opportunity to get out and play and I think they had a lot of fun."
How is Nick James holding up? "He's doing OK. He gets an opportunity to feel like what it's going to be like for games. What we do with these situations for guys that haven't played in a lot of games, it's their opportunity to see where they're at for what would be a game-day type of situation. And, what they need to improve on before they're going to step into the spotlight next year."
What is Nick Fitzgerald's reaction out there? "Oh, he's trying to figure out if the ball is blown or stuffed! You know what though? A great opportunity for him. Here's the thing he's going to have right now, when he shows back up here in January he has been out there. He's called cadences, he's called the huddle. He kind of has a little bit of understanding of the new language of what is going to happen for him. And I think even though he got a lot thrown at him, and I don't know how much stuck, but at least when we come back in January and he starts digging into this stuff it will make sense for him, what he's being taught."
He's never a step away from Dak Prescott, how much does that help the process? "A lot, because Dak didn't do much out here today. So Dak's job was to stand right next to him and make sure he knows what he's doing! But that's what guys are there for. The older guys have got to teach the younger guys what is expected of them and how to do things."
Les Koenning talked about how players gravitate to Dak, what is it about him? "I think guys have a lot of respect for guys who've worked hard. And they watch what the effort he gives. Whatever it is he's doing in the weightroom and off-season conditioning and running, his effort and energy at practice. I think everybody out here is pushing, they want to be their best. And if they look at a guy who finds a way to maximize himself every day they're drawn to that. That's what Dak brings to the table every day."
While holding the scrimmage, how impressive is all that work going on in the background on the stadium? "That's going to be pretty sweet. You know, we have a loud stadium already. And I know when we sell it out next year it's going to be one of the great home field advantages in the SEC."
RUSHING: Derrick Milton 10 carries, 49 yards, long 23; Ashton Shumpert 14 carries, 36 yards, long 11; Josh Creekmore 8, 28, long 12; Trey Braswell 6, 4 yards; Javous Nicks 5, 1 yard; Damian Williams 6, 21 yards, long 10; Nick Fitzgerald 9, 18 yards, long 8.
PASSING: Damian Williams 11-of-18, 168 yards, 3 touchdowns (4, 51, 9), 0 interceptions; Nick Fitzgerald 8-of-15, 114 yards, 1 interception; Sam Cowart 6-of-11, 1 touchdown (20); Josh Hand 0-of-2.
RECEIVING: De'Runnya Wilson 3, 70 yards, 2 touchdowns (51, 9); Joe Morrow 3, 14 yards, 1 touchdown (4); Fred Brown 3, 44 yards; Brandon Holloway 3, 8 yards; Artimas Samuel 1, 52 yards; B.J. Hammond 1, 20 yards, 1 touchdown (20); Ashton Shumpert 1, 14 yards; Derrick Milton 1, 9 yards; Shelby Christy 1, 7 yards.
TACKLES LEADERS: John Harris 13; Christian Holmes 6, Kelan Chairs 6; tied with 4 each Dezmond Harris, Nick James, Nelson Adams, Dee Arrington, Jahmere Irvin-Sills, Mannie Lowery, Trent Simpson.
SACKS: John Harris 4, Trent Simpson 1.
TFLs: Tolando Cleveland 2, Christian Holmes 2, John Harris, Trent Simpson, A.J. Jefferson.
INTERCEPTIONS: Tolando Cleveland, Jakes Wells