by Matthew Bonnette
LAKE CHARLES – McNeese State's running back trio of Kelvin Bennett, Nate Holmes and Derek Milton combined to rush the ball 24 times for 225 yards and four touchdowns as the Cowboys ran through its first scrimmage of the spring workouts Saturday afternoon in Cowboy Stadium.
Both Holmes and Milton are new to the McNeese backfield after transferring in from Southeastern Conference schools – Holmes from Arkansas and Milton from Mississippi State.
Bennett, the team's top returning rusher from last season, carried the ball nine times for 78 yards and two touchdowns, including a 52-yard sprint for a score. But he was outdone by Holmes, who rushed it six times for 94 yards and two scores and had a 58-yarder that exposed his lightning-fast speed. Milton gained 53 yards on nine carries with a long of 19 on a play that saw him bounce off the middle pack and take it around the end for the big gain.
"I thought we ran the ball good today," said head coach Matt Viator. "It was windy out here, plus we're minus about four wide outs, but I wanted to give the kids the opportunity to throw the football. We tried to limit it to where it was one run and one throw. Everything was pre-scripted."
Quarterbacks Will Briscoe and Tyler Bolfing swapped series with the first group, which included players from both the first and second units.
Briscoe completed 6 of 9 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown while Bolfing went 5 for 9 for 67 yards and a score. Grant Ashcraft (6-10, 49 yards, td) and Joe Lissard (3-10, 27 yards, td, int) took turns with the second group as the scrimmage lasted about 100 plays with series beginning on the 25 and 40 yard lines going long, the 40 and 10 yards lines going in, and the 2 yard line going long.
The first score of the game came during the third series of the first group when newcomer kicker Tanner Graeber connected on a 47-yard field goal. That seemed to open up the gates for the offense.
On the second play of the next series, Bennett sprinted 52 yards on a 2nd-and-2 play for the day's first touchdown.
Five plays later, Holmes took a 2nd-and-8 handoff and hit the hash mark for a 58-yard score that left the fans in awe of his speed.
The first passing score came in the fifth session with the first group. Looking at a 3rd-and-6 at the 7-yard line, Briscoe lobbed up a perfectly placed ball to the back corner of the endzone where Khalil Thomas corralled it under coverage for the score. Thomas had another touchdown catch late in the scrimmage on a 10-yard pass from Bolfing. He led all receivers with four catches for 43 yards and two touchdowns.
Briscoe added a touchdown on the ground when he scored on a 3-yard quarterback draw play.
The scrimmage didn't just show sparkles on offense as the defensive unit ended the session with an interception, five passes broken up and seven quarterback sacks.
Defensive tackle Sean Brown made the most noise on the afternoon with a team-high nine tackles to go along with two sacks. Newcomer defensive end Brian Hine matched Brown with two sacks of his own and added five tackles.
Freshman defensive back Erik Jones had an interception for the day's only turnover.
"I thought it was a good day," said Viator. "I liked our energy and thought we competed good. Obviously we made some mistakes, but I really liked our overall attitude."
The Cowboys will return to the practice field on Tuesday to begin the third week of the four-week slate. They'll hold their second scrimmage on next Saturday morning at 9:45 in Cowboy Stadium.
Will Briscoe 6-9, 100, TD; Tyler Bolfing 5-9, 67, TD; Grant Ashcraft 6-10, 49, TD; Joe Lissard 3-10, 27, TD, INT; Totals 20-34, 243, 4 TD, INT
Nate Holmes 6-94, 2 TD; Kelvin Bennett 9-78-5, 2 TD; Derek Milton 9-53; Dylan Long 8-25; Joe Lissard 3-6; Jared Williams 2-22; Grant Ashcraft 2-3; Trent Hargrave 1-5; Will Briscoe 1-3, TD; Marshall Harmon 1-3 ; Reynaldo Young 1-2; Jordan Craft 1-0; Totals 44-294, 5 TD
Khalil Thomas 4-43, 2 TD; Kelvin Bennett 3-59; David Bush 2-32; Jared Williams 2-19, TD; Nick Edwards 2-15, TD; Jereon McGilvery 1-19; Derek Milton 1-17; Jordan Craft 1-14; Jalen Bowers 1-14; Brian Walker 1-6; Dillon Bauer 1-4; Reynaldo Young 1-4; Bodhi Bell 1-(-3); Totals 20-243, 4 TD
Sean Brown 9; Brian Hine 5; Callen Smith 4; Jammerio Gross 3; Deonte Thompson 3; Jay Washington 3; Danyel Hunter 3; Drewe Burns 3; Leon Blouin 3; Keylon Bruno 3; Everett Ellefsen 3; Jay Washington 3; Shea Nutt 2; Austin Pennington 2; Damion Morgan 2; Derek Allen 2; Brent Spikes 2; Erik Jones 2; Vince Lombardo 2; Cameron Smith 2; Josh Veals 1; Livingston Hamilton 1; Corey Williams 1; Gustavio Garcia 1; Ja'Len James 1; Krishon Seastrunk 1; D.J. Gatlin 1
Sean Brown 2; Brian Hine 2; Keylon Bruno 1; Deonte Thompson 1; Austin Pennington 1
Erik Jones 1
Passes Broken Up: