Grambling’s first-team offense made notable improvement during a weekend scrimmage — the last before this Saturday’s Black and Gold Game — while the defense avoided a staggering injury to its biggest star.
“I saw some good, and some bad,” Grambling coach Rod Broadway said. “We’ve got some things to work on.”
Quarterback Danny Reyes and Co. scored twice — on an exhilerating 14-yard run by Frank Warren, then when Reyes took it in himself from 20 yards out — after failing to find the endzone in its initial, quite humbling scrimmage three Fridays ago.
Meanwhile, reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference defensive player of the year Christian Anthony left the Saturday morning practice, with an apparent leg injury. He told me later that it was just a bruise, and that he “would be fine.”
Grambling’s first-team offense got off to a quick, if uneven, start — opening with a 17-yard completion by Reyes. Warren then scampered for 20 yards. Unfortunately, those two positive plays were on either side of failed option play that lost 5 yards and then an offsides penalty, the first of 9 flags for the offense in the first half alone.
That first possession ended with another offsides penalty, a pass batted down by Kendall Robinson and then a missed throw on fourth down when Bakari Maxwell ran too flat on his route.
Reyes hit on passes of 17 and 20 yards on the starters’ second drive, getting Kiare Thompson involved, but then Warren was stuffed on an inside run. A fumble on a third-down snap ended the possession — prompting a spirited exchange with Broadway.
“Stop hurting yourselves. Tighten up,” Broadway said. “It’s time to get better.”
Grambling’s defense — bolstered by the return of starting cornerback Kenneth Anio, in his first week of practice after losing last year to injury — then earned its initial three-and-out during the following first-team drive, sacking Reyes on third down.
The fourth drive was marred by penalties, despite a 21-yard run by Warren on its initial play: After Robinson swallowed up Warren for a loss of 2 and Reyes missed on another attempt to Maxwell, consecutive offsides flags left the group with third and a staggering 25. New possession.
Though it featured yet another offsides flag, that fifth drive would be the starters’ best of this Saturday practice, held at The Rob.
Reyes connected on a 24-yarder to get things going, before consecutive rushes were stuffed and the penalty. Reyes steadied things, despite facing third and long, with a knifing 33-yard pass down to the 14-yard line. Warren rumbled in for the score just one play later, followed by Ari Johnson’s extra point.
Offensive playcaller Bob Leahy, acutely aware of the shower of penalty flags, told the first team: “I hope that complacency doesn’t set in. There is still a lot to work on.”
Grambling’s defense quickly echoed the point, stopping the starting offense cold on its sixth possession.
Reyes, on the next drive, then converted on second down with a nice pass to flat. The group was quickly pushed, however, to another third-down crossroads. Huddled up, Leahy made a canny remark: “We’ve got to learn to finish.” The possession ended moments later on a mishap with the snap.
The starters’ eighth drive would provide a second scoring opportunity, but not before another rash of penalty flags.
First, Thompson scooped up a third-down pass and took it to midfield. Warren then made his most impressive run of the day. Bottled up at the line at first, he kept digging and eventually broke through — rushing 35 yards to the 10-yard line.
Two offsides flags over the next three snaps then pushed the group back to the 20. Reyes, scanning and scanning the field for an open man on third down, finally tucked the ball and dashed in at the pylon for the first-teamer’s second touchdown of the scrimmage. Johnson added the extra point.
Warren was stopped on a third-down try to end the next drive, but then hauled in a pitch out from Reyes to get out of a fourth-down one possession later — getting the starters to midfield. Reyes converted on consecutive strikes to Maxwell and Thompson. But he held on to the ball a bit too long, trying to make something happen, and was sacked by Antoine Rogers.
Facing third and 14, Reyes was subsequently sandwiched in a sack between Robinson and Anthony — and Anthony came off the field with what appeared to be a bum right ankle. He finished the practice on the bench with his shoulder pads off, being attended to by the sports medicine staff.
That ended the first team’s sequence of possessions, after nine drives.
Broadway’s concluding message to the team focused on finding the champion within: “Day in and day out,” he said, “picture greatness.”
Mishaps dogged the second-team offense, led by quarterback Justin Higgins through 12 possessions. Fellow backup Calvin Works did not get any reps on Saturday morning.
It took this group three drives to earn a first down, but even that possession went no where when Higgins had to recover his own fumble after a bad handoff on 3rd and long. The second teamers opened the second half with a drive that stalled on a fourth-down sack.
The next possession’s conclusion was this group’s most successful, though it ultimately ended with a thud: Higgins and running back No. 45 got the group to a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line — they were helped along by a defensive offsides flag, and a nice mix of pass and run — before the backups’ fifth drive came to a crashing end on a fumble.
Looking deflated, the backup offense’s next six drives were then quickly stopped.
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New TDR photos: Grambling’s Week 5 Spring 2010 scrimmage
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