March 28, 2009
On Campus in Nashville, Tenn. - After a run of Black and Gold Scrimmages controlled by defense, the Commodore offense demonstrated plenty of explosiveness Saturday in the latest version of Vanderbilt's featured spring drill.
After a slow start, the offense gained momentum, producing eight touchdowns - four rushing and four passing - in the 75-play scrimmage staged in front of approximately 1,000 Commodore fans in Vanderbilt Stadium.
Head Coach Bobby Johnson left Dudley Field proud of the team's performance and effort, especially the younger Commodores who are trying to assure themselves of playing time next fall.
"We had a bunch of young guys out there trying to get better and do better," Johnson said. "It's just good to see them in front of a little crowd and have to execute under pressure. Some of them did real well.
"I just look to see if they're playing hard, doing what we ask them to do. I think everybody was trying to do that. So I was very pleased with all of (the players)," Johnson added.
The offense, held without a first down on its first three possessions, turned around quickly after quarterback Jared Funk connected on a 75-yard scoring strike with Alex Washington. The effective passing game appeared to open up the Commodore running game.
"Right at first, the defense was playing pretty good and we couldn't get anything going. But after we threw the ball a little bit and softened them up, we were able to run the ball a little bit later," the coach said.
The 75-play, 15-possession scrimmage, the team's fourth full-contact session of the spring, was played under overcast skies. The weather could have been much worse, as heavy rainstorms hit the Nashville vicinity hours before and after the scrimmage
Three quarterbacks - Funk, Larry Smith and Mackenzi Adams - alternated drives during the scrimmage. All three guided at least two scoring possessions.
Several defenders produced individual highlights, including end Steven Stone, tackle Greg Billinger, linebackers Brent Trice and Chris Marve, and cornerbacks Jamie Graham and Casey Hayward. Stone and Billinger both contributed two tackles for loss.
Some highlights from the Black & Gold Scrimmage follows:
Series 1 The "A" defense controlled their counterparts on the opening drive, with cornerback Casey Hayward stopping tailback Ryan van Rensburg for a 2-yard loss on the first play. Defensive end Steven Stone and tackle Greg Billinger followed Hayward's effort with consecutive sacks of quarterback Larry Smith.
Series 2 End Johnell Thomas helped the Commodore defense to another strong series with a 1-yard tackle for loss of tailback Gaston Miller. Another end, Theron Kadri, followed Thomas' effort for a punishing tackle on Miller.
Series 3 After tailback Kennard Reeves rushed for six yards to give the offense a 3rd-and-short, cornerback Jamie Graham forced a punt with an athletic tackle of receiver Turner Wimberly for no gain.
Series 4 After three unproductively possessions, the offense got untracked in quick fashion. On first down, Funk connected on a deep route over the middle to receiver Alex Washington, who outran the secondary into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown.
Series 5 Mackenzi Adams' first drive at quarterback resulted in a 70-yard, 8-play touchdown. On first down, Washington made his second straight play, taking a reverse 39 yards for a first down. The reverse was aided by a superb downfield block by tackle Thomas Welch. Completions by Adams to Udom Umoh and Chris Reinert, and a defensive penalty gave the offense possession inside the 10-yard line. Van Rensburg's 1-yard plunge provided the touchdown.
Series 6 Smith guided his first touchdown drive, hitting Umoh for 11 yards, and twice connecting with receiver Tray Herndon. The big play came from receiver Terence Jeffers, who tiptoed the sideline, and outraced the defense for a 36-yard score after a short pass from Smith.
Series 7 On first down, Stone's 7-yard sack of Funk and a tackle by cornerback Alan Strong forced the offense into a 3rd-and-long situation. The defense forced a punt when Funk's pass to Jeffers came up short of a first down.
Series 8 The "A" defense produced a quick, three-and-out possession. After Reeves gained three yards on first down, Billinger burst into the backfield to stop Reeves for a 2-yard loss. On third down, Hayward made another outstanding play, getting off a block to stop tight end Brandon Barden short of the first down.
Series 9 The only offensive turnover came on 3rd-and-long when safety Micah Powell snared Adams' deep pass attempt, returning it 36 yards. On first down, Adams narrowly missed a long sideline route to receiver Jameson Sackey.
Series 10 The offense drove into field goal range despite punishing tackles by linebacker Chris Marve and safety Joel Caldwell. First downs resulted from a pair of catches by Wimberly. On 3rd-and-1, linebacker Brent Trice forced a fourth down with an impressive tackle of van Rensburg.
Series 11 Funk directed the "B" offense to a 11-play touchdown drive. Tailback Chavez Scott had five rushes, including a leap from the 1-yard line that resulted in the score. The drive also included an impressive 12-yard rush by tailback Gaston Miller and a 24-yard strike from Funk to receiver Akeem Dunham.
Series 12 Starting from the 30-yard line, Reeves went 16 and 5 yards on consecutive rushes. After a stop by no gain by Billinger, Hayward leaped high to break up an Adams' pass intended for Washington in the end zone.
Series 13 Adams produced a quick 3-play, 30-yard touchdown. After an Adams pass to Umoh and 9-yard rush by Miller, Umoh took a short pass from Adams, dodged two tacklers and drove into the end zone for the score.
Series 14 On first down, Smith found Dunham open in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.
Series 15 Smith directed a 7-play touchdown drive. After consecutive rushes by van Rensburg, Smith found Barden, Reinert and tight end Austin Monahan on short passes to move inside the 5-yard line. Van Rensburg scored from 2 yards.
Held Out of Scrimmage
Two offensive players who have participated through much of the spring, tailback Jermaine Doster and receiver John Cole, were held out with injuries. Defensive tackle T.J. Greenstone also did not dress.
Former Commodores Watch from the Sidelines
A number of former Commodore players watched the scrimmage, including Jovan Haye, D.J. Moore, Darlron Spead, Matt Tant, Patrick Brunner, Richard Freeman, David Whittington, Josh Eames and Chris Johnson.
Black & Gold Scrimmage Stats
Receiving: Brandon Barden 2-8; Akeem Dunham 2-51-1 TD; Justin Green 1-9; Tray Herndon 2-9; Terence Jeffers 2-45-1 TD; Austin Monahan 1-5; Chris Reinert 1-11; Udom Umoh 4-39-1 TD; Alex Washington 1-75-1 TD; Turner Wimberly 3-15
Tackles: Greg Billinger 4; Joel Caldwell 4; Jamie Graham 4; Sean Richardson 4; DeAndre Jones 3, Al Owens 3; Patrick Benoist 2, Nate Campbell 2; David Flowers 2; Casey Hayward 2; Kurt Lockhart 2, Rob Lohr 2; Chris Marve 2; Steven Stone 2; Archie Barnes 1; Teriall Brannon 1; Dexter Daniels 1, Josh Jelesky 1; Theron Kadri; Colt Nichter 1; Micah Powell 1; Adam Smotherman 1; Alan Strong 1; Brent Trice 1; Johnell Thomas 1; Elvio Tropeano 1
Interceptions: Micah Powell 1-36