Defense shines in first scrimmage

The 2006 Vanderbilt Commodores football team held its first game-like scrimmage with referees at Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday afternoon. The defense bent but did not break keeping the offense out of the end zone in the first half. The offense came back with three touchdowns in the second half; once on a six play, 50-yard drive, and twice on 30-yard drives.

All four quarterbacks saw action in the scrimmage. Projected starter Chris Nickson connected on 7 of 16 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. MacKenzi Adams was 5-8-0 for 65 yards; Richard Kovalcheck went 9-20-1 for 89 yards and a touchdown; and Jared Funk finished the scrimmage 2-6-0 for 10 yards. All told, the four passers combined for 23 of 50 with one interception good for 234 yards and two scores.

The running game had little to shout about. After an early 16 yard scamper by Cassen Jackson-Garrison, the defense tightened and plugged the holes at the line of scrimmage the rest of the way. All told, the Commodore rushing attack ended up with 41 rushes for only 76 yards. Some of the low yardage can be attributed to three sacks for -19 yards. Taking out the sacks, the rushing attack still averaged just 2.5 yards on 38 carries. Take into consideration that the quarterbacks were considered tackled by being touched. Nickson and Adams both had runs that could have been for more yardage. On one play Nickson could have easily picked up another 10 yards, while Adams was "stopped" by a weak tap where he could have gained another 5-10 yards.

The completed passes went to 13 different receivers, and Earl Bennett did not participate. Leading the way was redshirt freshman Alex Washington, who caught three balls for 48 yards and a touchdown. 37 of those yards came after the catch including his touchdown scamper on a quick pass from Kovalcheck. Washington benefited from a downfield block, but he threaded the needle to hit pay dirt.

Marlon White caught three passes for 27 yards and a touchdown, while Justin Wheeler nabbed two passes for 29 yards. The longest catch of the evening came on an Adams to true freshman Steven Goulet bomb for 30 yards. The pass was slightly underthrown and could have gone the distance if it had been on target.

Defensively, the linebackers looked ready to take on Michigan today. Jonathan Goff was all over the field and Curtis Gatewood played Robin to Goff's Batman. Kevin Joyce made it hard for runners to turn the corner on his side. Backups Patrick Benoist, Brandon Bryant, and Quavian Lewis looked ready to contribute as well.

The defensive line stuffed the run and occupied the offensive line for the linebackers to pursue freely.

The big play artist of the secondary was true freshman D. J. Moore who had the lone interception of the night and recovered a fumble at the line of scrimmage. Moore followed that by breaking up another pass and stopping a third short of a first down. Fellow freshman safety Brent Trice was in on numerous tackles.

The special teams got a lot of work as well. The highlight of the special teams play was a booming 55 yard punt by freshman Brett Upson. The perfect spiral stayed in the air for an eternity (actually 4.6 seconds), forcing Larry Simmons to signal for a fair catch. Upson also booted a 37 yarder with excellent coverage.

Kyle Keown's lone punt went for 44 yards and had enough hang time to prevent a return. Bill Robertson's punt traveled 42 yards with the last seven yards rolling down the sideline. All of the punts were into a slight wind from the northwest.

Leon Solimani and Robertson were tried on kickoffs. Solimani's two kicks traveled to the one yard line, while Robertson's one kick made it to just shy of the five.

Bryant Hahnfeldt, Patrick Johnson, and Thomas Carroll took turns on extra points and field goals. Hahnfeldt made all his PAT's and was true on five of six field goal attempts. Johnson made both of his extra point attempts, but missed two of five field goal attempts. Carroll was good on two of three field goal attempts. The longest attempt by any kicker was just 38 yards. Hahnfeldt and Carroll hit their 38 yarders, while Johnson's was wide left.

The Commodores take Sunday off for Dore Jam V. The public is invited to attend the festivities at 4PM at the John Rich Athletic Complex on Natchez Trace adjacent to the track and behind McGugin Center. Activities for fans of all ages will be available.

Monday, the team will continue with two practices, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

See also: Coach Bobby Johnson and Alex Washington Comment on Saturday Scrimmage.


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