After all, three plays into Grambling’s spring-ending intrasquad scrimmage today, the Gold group — made up of members from the first-team offense and second-team defense — was up by a touchdown.
That was, instead, one of the few offensive highlights in contest that became a nasty defensive battle.
The Black team — comprised of the first-team defense and second-team offense — never scored, falling 16-0. Instead, it relentlessly hassled starting quarterback Greg Dillon over the course of a scrimmage that lasted 20 total possessions.
“The (first-team) offense hit a play early today,” third-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway said, “and then they began to struggle. It’s a good example of our philosophy: You are going to have a bad day on offense, so defensively you have to be good. If you do that, you can be competitive all year long . They got one over the top against (senior defensive back Kenneth) Anio, then we settled down on defense.”
Dillon could be seen, as the first half ended, being taken down on three consecutive plays — once by junior tackle Charlie Brewer and twice by junior end Christian Anthony.
When it was over, Anthony was credited with no fewer than five sacks, and ended the Gold team’s third drive with a devastating hit to sophomore running back Cornelius Walker on a third-down screen.
“They couldn’t block Christian; they couldn’t block (fellow defensive lineman) Kendell (Robinson),” said Broadway, clearly disappointed. “If we can give Greg some protection, we are going to be alright. We have the players to score some points, but we have to protect him. He was just throwing it up sometimes.”
Early on, that was enough.
On the opening snap of the scrimmage, starting at the 30, Dillon hit freshman receiver Bakari Maxwell for a stirring 55-yard pass.
“I was able to deliver the ball,” Dillon said, still marveling over the electrifying play, “and Bakari did the rest.”
Dillon added four more yards with a pass to sophomore tight end Kevin Grayson, then handed off to Walker who dashed in for an 11-yard score. Luis Leal hit the extra point, but subsequently missed a second PAT — and went 1-3 on field goals. He was good from 25-yards out, but had 51- and 29-yard tries blocked.
The Black team’s defenders were gaining traction in the trenches, sending Dillon scrambling. He became increasingly agitated in the pocket, and the first-team offense didn’t score another touchdown for eight possessions.
“We had some problems on a few plays with the protection,” Dillon said, “but the offensive line is going to be fine. They are getting better and better.”
Kiare Thompson, the team’s best special teams threat in 2008, made a notable return to the team after a stint playing baseball at Grambling — pulling in a 44-yard reception on the second play of the second quarter, and earning a critical first down on the Gold team’s final touchdown drive.
The day’s scoring was completed by sophomore receiver Damian Jefferson, who streaked to a 37-yard touchdown in a controversial moment. Several defenders on the Black team were signalling for time out as the play got underway.
Freshman running back Earnest Eastland, a newcomer out of Houston’s Booker T. Washington High, possesses remarkable size at 6-1, 225 pounds — and always threatened to rip off a long run for the Black team. But he struggled with ball security, losing one ball to junior Derrick Wilhite — who provided a defensive spark for the Gold team by creating two turnovers.
The first was an interception on a Justin Higgins pass — which set up the Gold team’s second score, Leal’s three pointer from 25 yards. He almost snatched another Higgins pass on the scrimmage’s 17 th possession, as well.
Junior kicker Luis Leal served in a dual role. His 51-yard attempt was made as part of the Black team. The second blocked kick was for the Gold unit.