JONESBORO (4/8/11) - The Arkansas State football team used the majority of its 11th spring practice Friday at ASU Stadium to hold a 78-play scrimmage, and the defense stepped up to take the spotlight by forcing multiple 3-and-outs and numerous negative plays.
The scrimmage, which followed special teams work and drills, included 19 series made up of 69 plays before the players were divided into two squads for an overtime competition that ended with a Darryl Feemster interception, one of four turnovers on the day.
In addition to its four turnovers gained, the defense held the offense to a 3-and-out on 12 series and recorded nine sacks. Don Jones returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown and joined Feemster and fellow defensive back Kelcie McCray as players with a pick in the scrimmage, while cornerback Jonathan Victorian jumped on a fumble as well. Six players recorded a sack, including linebacker Najel Byrd with three and defensive end Jeremy Gibson with two.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of our defense," said ASU head coach Hugh Freeze. "I just thought they dominated and were passionate about the way they dominated. They got some good stuff in this week and really came after the offense today, but the last time this happened the offense really responded the next practice. We'll get in the film room and we'll try to get our mistakes made today corrected."
The offense was able to sustain two drives, which both started at its own 30-yard line, that resulted in a field goal and a touchdown. The offense's first scoring drive came on the scrimmage's second series and covered 56 yards on 13 plays. Quarterback Phillip Butterfield found wide receiver Julian Jones on a 36-yard pass, the longest play of the scrimmage, to set the offense up at the defense's 32-yard line. The drive stalled at the 14-yard line, however, and ended with a 31-yard field goal by Bobby Zalud.
The scrimmage's 17th series saw the offense hit the defense for a couple of big plays, including a 32-yard touchdown strike from Butterfield to wideout Allen Muse. Butterfield also completed a 32-yard pass to receiver Carlos McCants that moved the ball from the 25-yard line into the defense's territory.
The defense maintained its strong play during the overtime competition, forcing the offense to settle for a 35-yard field goal by Brian Davis on the first series. The second series was extended on a penalty during a field goal attempt, but Feemster ended the scrimmage with his interception on the very next play.
The Red Wolves will begin the final week of their spring practices Monday with a 3:30 p.m. workout at ASU Stadium. A-State will also practice Wednesday and Friday before holding their annual Spring Game on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
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