Friday, June 21, 2024

College football: Demon defense stands tall in first full spring scrimmage

by Russell Hedges
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By Jason Pugh, Northwestern State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations; featured photo by Lauren Krupica, NSU Athletics

NATCHITOCHES – While the Northwestern State football team was a bit off schedule ahead of Saturday’s first full scrimmage of spring practice, the Demon defense was where it was expected to be.

In a scrimmage that lasted roughly 40 plays, the NSU defense produced 11 tackles for loss and forced a pair of turnovers during the workout Saturday morning at Turpin Stadium.

“I’m really proud of what the defense did,” first-year head coach Blaine McCorkle said. “They showed up fast and physical and made a lot of plays. That’s good. It’s natural. Your defense should be slightly ahead of your offense. That’s how it works in football. I’m not discouraged with the offense.

“It’s a learning curve. We know what we have to do and work on. Our style of play is drastically different than what any of these guys are used to playing. They’ll get there. They’ll learn and get better every day. I’m excited with the amount of work we got done, and we came out of it mostly healthy.”

Saturday’s workout gave McCorkle and his staff their first chance to see a full-team workout with referees in attendance.

That group was able to produce a teachable moment for both sides of the ball as a holding penalty negated a substantial run and forced the offense into a 3rd-and-20 situation.

Given that opportunity, the Demon defense pounced as Antonio Hall snared an interception.

That momentum-shifting play was typical of the fast start from the NSU defense, which started the day with three straight three-and-outs, including one that ended with consecutive sacks from Chancellor Owens and Kemarion Ivory.

Owens finished the day with a scrimmage-best six tackles (three for loss) and a pair of sacks.

“We ran to the ball, which is our motto this year,” said rising redshirt sophomore linebacker Danny Sears, who had a tackle for loss. “No matter whether it’s a big play or not, we want everyone to swarm to the ball at once. Overall, the defense won the scrimmage, but we also need to pick up the offense. That’s how it’s going to go.”

The Demon offense produced a couple of chunk plays, highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Kekahi Graham to Dane Wallace and a 26-yard pass from Graham to Micah Jernigan.

Quarterback Chance Newman, whose role is evolving practice by practice, tallied the scrimmage’s lone touchdown – scoring on an 8-yard run.

To a man, McCorkle and the offense understood where they are after Saturday, creating a mutual admiration society within the locker room.

“The defense got the best of us,” wide receiver Twon Hines said. “That’s good to see. They were the aggressors. We want them to come out and set the tone and knock people in the teeth. We want them to be the aggressors, and that’s what they did today. We took it on the chin as an offense, so we’ll go look at the film and see where we went wrong. We can’t let that happen again. We have to build off each other.”

As the Demons continue to build their roster and their depth ahead of fall camp and the Aug. 29 season opener at Tulsa, the camaraderie has McCorkle happily looking forward while knowing his team is far from a finished product.

“The first thing we asked them to do is to trust us as a staff,” McCorkle said. “Once trust grows, love starts to develop and happen. I haven’t been around a good football team that didn’t love each other. That’s where we have to get to. One of the first things we did at team meetings was take the first 10 minutes and have people introduce themselves to start building those bonds and that unity. That’s where it starts. The best teams I have been around were hands down the closest teams I’ve been a part of.”

Scoring Summary

Reed Honshtein 29 FG

Evan Kern 32 FG

Honshtein 42 FG

Kern 42 FG

Chance Newman 8 run (Kern kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING (20-(-5), TD) – Ray Mckneely-Harris 3-6; Kennieth Lacy 2-5; Zay Davis 4-0; Chance Newman 6-(-2), 1 TD, Quaterius Hawkins 1-(-3), SirMichael Veasley 3-(-6); Team 1-(-5)

PASSING (11-26-1, 113, 0 TD) –  Kekahi Graham 4-11-0 82; Hawkins 5-6-1 19; J.T. Fayard 2-9-0 12

RECEIVING (11-113) – Dane Wallace 2-52; Micah Jernigan 1-26; Amaaz Eugene 2-18; #17 1-7; Veasley 1-6; #7 1-6; Kyron Angeletti 1-2; Lacy 1-0; Miles Kitt-Denton 1-(-4)

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

Chancellor Owens 6 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks; Keeshawn Reed 2 tackles; Landry Huddleston 2 TFL; Connor Norcross 3 tackles, 2 TFL; Antonio Hall 1 INT; Anthony Richard Jr. 2 PBU; Emmanuel Brown 2 tackles, 1 sack; Ara Rauls II 1 FR, 1 TFL; Blake Gotcher 2 tackles, 1 TFL; Jordan Banks 1 tackle; Tyron Hall 1 tackle; DJ Johnson 1 tackle; Jeremiah Keppard 1 tackle; Cadillac Rhone 1 TFL; Danny Sears 1 TFL.

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