August 17th Football Scrimmage Update

STARKVILLE, Miss. ­ Mississippi State's offense avenged a less-than-productive Wednesday scrimmage with a big-play aerial attack during the team's second fall scrimmage Saturday, a 75-minute session that ended the Bulldogs' 2002 two-a-day drills.

As he did during Wednesday's scrimmage, head football coach Jackie Sherrill opened Saturday's workout with the younger players in a short-field situation, but this time the offense set the tone early. Freshman quarterback Ken Topps (Shannon, Miss.) threw a pair of touchdown passes and would have had a third but for a defensive pass interference penalty.

Topps, battling for the third quarterback spot behind junior starter Kevin Fant and backup Kyle York, a redshirt freshman exerted himself during the Saturday scrimmage, by completing 2-of-3 with 2 touchdown passes. In the two scrimmages combined, he was 3-of-4 for 38 yards with 2 TD passes and 0 interceptions. He also rushed for 14 yards on 3 carries.

During the first part of the scrimmage, walk-on offensive lineman Clayton McCain suffered what was believed to be a dislocated hip.

The first offense picked right up where their younger counterparts left off, driving 70 yards for a score against the first defense. Kevin Fant threw the first of two touchdown passes to conclude that drive, and between those scores, directed the offense on a successful field-goal march.

On the first drive, Fant, with sophomore noseguard Ronald Fields breathing down his neck, scrambled out of the pocket and threw a short pass to junior wide receiver Justin Jenkins, who ran it in for a 55-yard touchdown.

During the second drive, Fant, protected well by the first unit offensive line, threw a long pass that was broken up by Richard Ball at the goal line. After completing a 12-yard pass to Justin Jenkins, the drive stalled after two incomplete passes and a fumbled snap.

Backup quarterback Kyle York then took over the offense. Behind a second unit offensive line that was made up of seniors Carl Hutchins and Kyle Watson, redshirt freshman Chris McNeil, sophomore Will Rogers and true freshman Richard Burch, York threw a short pass to true freshman wide receiver Brandon Wright for approximately 2 yards. The drive stalled when big Tommy Kelly, fast approaching York, caused him to hurry his throw.

On the next drive, York was sacked by junior defensive end Jason Clark. Both Tommy Kelly and junior defensive end Corey Brown were right there with him and could have easily been credited with a partial sack. On the next play, York, once again pressured, threw a ball that could have easily been intercepted by Brandon Downing. The drive ended with a punt.

Kevin Fant came back in with the first unit on the next drive. On the very first play, Fant, facing the third unit defense, connected with senior wide receiver Darius Tubbs for a 70-yard touchdown.

The first unit offense, once again facing the third unit defense, saw fullback Justin Griffith make a good run on a screen pass. The highlight of that play, besides Griffith's run, was that he was tackled from behind by true freshman defensive end Marvin Byrdsong. Griffith, while avoiding would-be tacklers, was run down by Byrdsong. After a couple of more plays, the first unit defense came in. On third down, Fred Reid made a first down with two yards to spare. On first down, with a strong rush by Tommy Kelly, Fant threw a quick pass to Justin Jenkins, who ran it down to the 14-yard line for a 21-yard gain. With the third unit defense now back in, Fred Reid ran the ball down to the 1-yard line. With a hole opened by offensive linemen David Stewart, a sophomore, and Michael Allen, a senior, Reid easily ran in for a touchdown on the next play.

The second unit offense then took over, but failed to generate any offense on the next drive.

On the next drive, true freshman running back Nick Turner really showcased his talent. After gaining 3 yards, he came right back and bounced off two would-be tacklers to gain 5 yards. Nick, according to head track coach Al Schmidt, who was standing beside me while Nick made his run, has great body position while running on his toes. That allows him to run with power and also makes it hard on the defensive players to tackle him from the front. Plus, if you hit him from the side, he'll just bounce off of you.

After a couple of short drives, the first unit offense faced the second unit defense. Fred Reid ran for 3 yards before being tackled by juniors Milas Randle and Lennie Day. On the next play, Justin Griffith hauled in a pass by Fant for a 15-yard gain. After catching a pass by Fant, Reid ran the ball down to the 14-yard line. The drive ended with a 32-yard field goal by John Michael Marlin.

With the third unit defense now in, the third unit offense, led by freshman quarterback Justin Tyler, came in for the next drive. On the first play, Jerious Norwood ran for 5 yards. Behind a hole made by juco transfer offensive center Manuel Dickson and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Johnny Wadley, Norwood then ran for 10 yards. The best was yet to come. On the next play, Norwood, after seeing the hole close in front of him, instantly stopped, looked to his right, saw an opening, quickly ran through it, then outrunning the defense, ran to the corner of the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown.

True freshman quarterback Aries Nelson finished up the scrimmage with the third unit offense facing the third unit defense. On the first play, true freshman fullback Bryson Davis ran up the middle for 5 yards. Nelson, on the next play, threw a pass that died and fell incomplete. After running for 8 yards on the next play, Aries handed off to fullback Davis who was tackled by Marvin Byrdsong after a 3-yard gain. Following that play, Nelson, staying in the pocket, threw an excellent pass that was dropped by the would-be receiver. After the drive stalled, true freshman kicker Keith Andrews missed a 30-yard field goal attempt.

"We had a lot of good catches, made some nice throws and had some good runs," Sherrill said, "but there are a lot of guys glad today is over. They're tired from two-a-days. They didn't show a lot of enthusiasm, even after big plays on both sides of the ball.

"But there is no question there is a lot of talent here," Sherrill continued. "(Jerious) Norwood and (Nick) Turner will help this football team. And the offensive line protected well with (Kevin) Fant. I think we'll have a good offensive football team."

The defense was not without its moments, as well. With starters Mario Haggan and Tommy Kelly back after missing last Wednesday's scrimmage with injuries, the defense came up with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, but unlike Wednesday, never asserted itself against the offense. Unlike three days earlier when it held the offense to 281 yards on 88 snaps (3.2 yards per play), the offense piled up 458 yards on 73 plays (6.3 yards per play) Saturday. The difference was in the passing game, where the offense generated 307 yards.

At the end of the scrimmage, the three field goal kickers, Brent Smith, John Michael Marlin and Keith Andrews attempted field goals. Juco kicker Brent Smith, showing consistency and leg strength, was 4-of-6, making field goals from 46, 47, 51 and 52 yards. He missed a 56-yarder and a 52-yarder (bad snap). John Michael Marlin was 1-of-2, making a 39-yarder while missing a 46-yarder. Keith Andrews was 0-of-2, missing a 56 and 57-yarder.

Individual highlights from the two scrimmages combined (note the number of freshmen who have had good scrimmages):
Kevin Fant - 16-29-295, 2 INTs, 4 TDs.
Fred Reid - 16-99, 3 TDs; Rec 3-29, 1 TD.
FR. RB Nick Turner - 15-71.
FR. RB Jerious Norwood - 15-73, 1 TD.
Justin Jenkins - 4-94, 1 TD.
Darius Tubbs - 3-86, 1 TD.
FR. WR Tee Milons - 4-49, 2 TDs.
Michael Gholar - 7 Tackles.
FR. DE Marvin Byrdsong, Glen Thompson - 6 Tackles.
FR. DS Darren Williams, RS-FR. CB Derrick Crockett - 5 Tackles.
FR. CB Kevin Dockery - 3 Tackles, 2 INTs, 3 Pass Breakups.

The biggest surprise of this group may be true freshman Kevin Dockery. Kevin was lightly recruited, but has not only stood out in the scrimmages but the newcomer testing where he benched 185 pounds 19 times, vertical jumped 37.5 inches and broad jumped 9' 10".

Milons 14 pass from Topps (no PAT attempt)
Scott 17 pass from Topps (no PAT attempt)
Jenkins 55 pass from Fant (kick failed - Marlin)
Tubbs 70 pass from Fant (Smith kick)
Reid 1 run (Andrews kick)
Marlin 32 FG
Norwood 25 run (Smith kick)

RUSHING - Reid 8-50 TD, Norwood 4-49 TD, Turner 6-38, Nelson 2-16, Topps 2-13, Davis 2-8, Jenkins 1-8, Billings 1-3, Evans 1-1, J.Griffith 1-(-1), York 2-(-3), Fant 1-(-5), Team 2-(-6), Wonsley 3-(-9), Tyler 1-(-11).
PASSING - Fant 11-17-1-250 2TD, Topps 2-3-0-31 2TD, York 4-12-1-25, Tyler 1-2-0-1, Nelson 0-2-1-0.
RECEIVING - Jenkins 4-94 TD, Tubbs 2-83 TD, J.Griffith 2-42, Milons 2-25 TD, Reid 1-14, Scott 1-17 TD, Hargro 1-12, Prosser 1-9, Lee 1-5, Lumpkin 1-3, B.Wright 1-2, Wiley 1-1.
PUNTING - Wallis 4-47.0, Cook 1-55.0, B.Morgan 1-34.0.
TACKLES - Crockett 4, Arant 3, B.Morgan 3, Nash 3, D.Wright 3, Ball 2, Banks 2, Byrdsong 2, Dockery 2, Gholar 2, Jack 2, Riddley 2, Wallace 2, Williams 2, Bennett 1, Brown 1, Burdett 1, Clark 1, Day 1, Downing 1, S.Griffith 1, K.Jackson 1, N.Jackson 1, Moore 1, Randle 1, Thompson 1.
INTERCEPTIONS - Dockery 1-10, Ball 1-0, Randle 1-0.
PASS BREAKUPS - Ball 1, Dockery 1, Downing 1, Moore 1, Randle 1.
SACKS - Burdett 1-11, Clark 1-5, Nash 1-5.

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is You can contact him by emailing

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