LAKE CHARLES – McNeese State held its second scrimmage of the spring season on Saturday morning in Cowboy Stadium and the 117-play scrimmage displayed improvements on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
“From the first scrimmage to this one, I thought we throwing and catching the ball much better,” said head coach Matt Viator. “I'm very excited about the progress we've made. The defense did a great job of flying around the ball and making some great plays.”
Four quarterbacks – Daniel Sams, Grant Ashcraft, Joe Lissard, and Will Briscoe – combined to complete 26 of 46 passes for 300 yards. Ashcraft led the way with 99 passing yards on 7 of 12 attempts. He also threw two interceptions late in the scrimmage at the end of series that saw the offense going for the endzone.
Sams led all rushers with 56 yards on seven carries followed by walkon Benjamin Jones who had 46 yards on seven rushes. Jones, who scored the scrimmage's only touchdown on a 14-yard sprint up the middle midway through the slate, is also a sprinter on the Cowboys' track team.
Kickers Jean Breaux and Trent Manuel combined to hit five field goals for the only other scoring. Breaux hit kicks of 34 and 35 yards while Manuel was good on distances of 20, 40, and 51 yards.
Although the offense rolled up 467 total offensive yards on the day, the defense held its ground and kept the offense from scoring touchdowns on four trips inside the Red Zone.
“Our defense is amazing,” said Sams. “Nobody brings the house like Coach Guirdy. Every day in practice they keep us on our toes as QBs. There are times when I ask him to give us a break on the pressure but we know it's making us better as a whole. At the end of the day, it's a great feeling to know that defense is on my team.”
Texas A&M transfer and defensive tackle Isaiah Golden led the “DWA” with seven tackles to go along with a tackle for a loss and forced fumble.
In all, the Cowboys sacked the quarterbacks four times and stuffed runners 9 ½ times for a loss.
Shea Nutt and Damion Morgan each picked off passes.
The scrimmage began with the No. 1 offense going up against the No. 1 defense at the 25-yard line going long. The 15-play sequence was highlighted by a couple of long rushes by Sams and capped off by with a 35-yard field goal by Breaux.
The defense came up with a couple of big sacks in the next sequence. The first by Gustavo Garcia on a 3rd-and-6 play at the defense 25-yard. The 9-yard loss forced the offense into a long field goal attempt that saw Manuel boot it through for the 51-yard score.
On the next series and facing a 3rd-and-14 at the 15, Ashari Goins sacked Ashcraft for an 8-yard loss but this time the offense was unable to get the points as Breaux was wide on a 40-yard field goal attempt.
Nutt and Morgan intercepted passes in a sequence with the 2s up against each other but sqeezed in between those turnovers, Jones burst through the middle on a 1st-and-10 play from the 14-yard line for the only touchdown of the scrimmage.
The offense was set up for another td after Lissard hit Bodhi Bell for a 31-yard gain that put the ball at the 3-yard line but the defense again held strong and forced the offense into a 20-yard field goal.
Late in the scrimmage with the offense driving after a 20-yard gain on a run by Jones, the defense turned the momentum once again on sacks by Anthony Yruegas and Josh Washington on two of the next three plays to keep the offense from scoring.
Tavarious Battiste, who moved over to wide receiver from the defensive backfield, led the offense with four catches for 68 yards while both Bell and Brian Walker each pulled in three grabs.
Tyler Bolfing made one grab for 16 yards after seeing his first stint at tight end while the hit he absorbed and delivered with defensive back Callen Smith, received the loudest replies from the fans.
“He came to me about it,” said Viator of Bolfing's position change. “We're experimenting with it right now. We also had Kelvin (Bennett) playing some corner today as well. It's something we're looking at. With the way offenses are now with the spread and speed, Kelvin can definitely benefit us back there.”
“He has great hands,” said Sams of Bolfing's catching abilities. “And he can run and deliver a hit. Plus he's not afraid to get hit either.”
The Cowboys will go through their final week of spring practice starting Tuesday and will end with next Saturday's spring game that is set to begin at 1 p.m. in Cowboy Stadium.
SCRIMMAGE #2 STATS
Passing: Grant Ashcraft 7-12, 99, 2 INT; Joe Lissard 6-12, 85; Will Briscoe 7-14, 62; Daniel Sams 6-8, 54. Totals 26-46, 300, 2 INT.
Rushing: Daniel Sams 7-56; Benjamin Jones 7-46, td; Derrick Milton 4-22; Ryan Ross 7-16; Dylan Long 5-14; Kelvin Bennett 5-6; Weston Watkins 1-3; Grant Ashcraft 3-2; Nick Edwards 1-2; Dion Francis 1-1; Lee Glass 1-(-1). Totals 42-167, td.
Receiving: Tavarious Battiste 4-68; Bodhi Bell 3-53; Brian Walker 3-24; Damon Gladney 2-24; Dillon Bauer 2-24; Derrick Milton 1-19; Tyler Bolfing 1-16; Jalen Bowers 1-10; Jamari Payne 1-5; Ryan Ross 1-3; Kelvin Bennett 1-3; Khalil Thomas 1-2.
Tackles: Isaiah Golden 7; Bo Brown 5; Christian Jacobs 5; Ed Duplessis 5; Ashari Goins 5; Kurt Viges 5; Erik Jones 4; Dominique Hill 4; Carlos Carroll 4; Wallace Scott 4; Gabe Hamner 3; Trevor Derouen 3; Josh Washington 3; Gustavo Garcia 3; Anthony Yruegas 3; Andre Fuller 2; Jermaine Antoine 2; Damion Morgan 2; Jalen St. Julien 2; Brian Hine 2; Jake Grode 2; Vance Grayson 1; Brent Spikes 1; Tre Porter 1; Callen Smith 1; Vincent Lombardo 1; Johnnie Marsaw 1; Jammerio Gross 1.
Sacks (4): Josh Washington, Gustavo Garcia, Anthony Yruegas, Ashari Goins.
Tackles for Loss: Christian Jacobs 1.5; Bo Brown 1; Trevor Derouen 1; Wallace Scott 1; Josh Washington 1; Gustavo Garcia 1; Isaiah Golden 1; Dominique 0.5; Tre Porter 0.5; Ed Duplessis 0.5; Kurt Viges 0.5.
Interceptions (2): Shea Nutt, Damion Morgan.
Pass Breakups (5): Bo Brown, Trevor Derouen, Jalen St. Julien, Deltoine Scott, Cameron Smith.
Force Fumbles (1): Isaiah Golden.
Fumble Recoveries (1): Bo Brown.
Jean Breaux 35-yard field goal – 1st sequence 1s vs. 1s Trent Manuel 51-yard field goal – 2nd sequence 2s vs. 2s Trent Manuel 40-yard field goal – 4th sequence 1s vs. 1s Benjamin Jones 14-yard TD run – 5th sequence 2s vs. 2s Trent Manuel 20-yard field goal – 6th sequence 3s vs. 3s Jean Breaux 34-yard field goal – 9th sequence 1s vs. 1s