|« NDSU football: Bison find their back||Defense rules day as ISU football holds spring scrimmage »|
Defense gets upper hand in scrimmage
The season is still a long way away, but if spring practice is any indication, the 2010 McNeese State football season will be one dominated by defense and a strong rushing attack.
The Cowboys completed their second spring scrimmage on Saturday, with freshman running back Marcus Wiltz and the defensive line providing many of the highlights. Wiltz scored three touchdowns and the linemen were a fairly regular presence in the backfield.
“It was a really good effort. There was some plays made on both sides of the ball,” said head coach Matt Viator. “I thought our defense did some good things for the second week and the offense did some good things today. Our running backs, Wiltz and (Champlain) Babin were really good and our quarterbacks started making plays after it got started.”
The competition for McNeese’s starting quarterback job received yet another complication when Blake Barousse had to leave the scrimmage after taking a hard hit between his shoulder and helmet. Fellow quarterback Zach Fourroux missed the entire practice after suffering a non-contact injury earlier in the week, leaving Zack O’Quinn and Cody Stroud with the majority of Saturday’s snaps. Trent Whitley also ran the offense for a few series.
Barousse’s injury had the initial appearance of being more serious than it actually was, and Viator said he hopes both Barousse and Fourroux will be behind center again leading up to next week’s spring game.
“I think Blake will be OK. You could tell he kind of got dinged up a little bit,” Viator said. “We hope to maybe get Fourroux back next week. But the three kids that got a chance today did some good things.”
O’Quinn and Stroud both showed some flashes in their time running the offense. Stroud was 14 of 23 for 146 yards and two touchdowns, while O’Quinn was a precise 12-for-16 for 128 yards and three touchdowns. Neither quarterback was picked off.
“I think everybody, as far as quarterbacks, is doing great,” O’Quinn said. “We’re learning and getting better each day. Before anything can be said you just have to keep working each day and hopefully it will work out.”
While both quarterbacks improved over the course of the scrimmage, the unquestioned star of Saturday’s show was Wiltz. He took a screen pass from O’Quinn and turned it into a 61-yard touchdown and rushed for 71 yards on nine carries.
“It means a lot to me. I redshirted even though I wanted to play real bad, but I just knew I had to wait for my time to come,” Wiltz said. “Whenever coach put me in, I had to step my game up and perform. It felt pretty good. Coach told us we have to get more consistent and run more physical and that’s what we came out and did today.”
Wiltz’s yards were hard-earned against a defense that was causing havoc behind the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys had seven sacks, led by a pair from Brandon Zanders. Chris Loveless, Terrance Freeman, Damion Aultman, Justin Breaux and Nick Toti also got to the quarterback.
“You can see were playing with a lot more confidence (on defense),” Viator said. “We’ve retained the players and the coaches and it seems like we’re a lot more sure about what we’re doing. Any time you’ve got confidence you’re going to be that much faster in terms of how you play.”
A number of Cowboys were scratched from the scrimmage due to minor injuries, including tight end Corday Clark and wide receiver John LeDay. Viator said offensive lineman Miguel Gathreaux and wide receiver Chad Keys also missed the scrimmage because of family obligations.
With offensive lineman Alec Savoie also sitting out the entire spring while recovering from surgery, freshman right tackle Ryan Davis of Westlake saw plenty of time on the field Saturday. Viator said he’s been impressed with Davis’ progression.
“He’s big and athletic and Ryan is the kind of guy that gets better every day,” Viator said. “There’s no doubt he can help us. We look for big things.”
By ALEX HICKEY