NATCHITOCHES – Explosive plays involving all three quarterbacks competing for the starting role produced 419 passing yards Saturday morning as Northwestern State staged its first major scrimmage of spring football practice at Turpin Stadium.
J.D. Almond, Clay Holgorsen and Kenny Sears combined to complete 24 of 37 passes with no interceptions in the 90-minute situational scrimmage, which included live tackling most of the morning.
Almond, the senior who started the last three games of 2016, threw for 169 yards on 8 of 13 aim, capping the day with a 77-yard touchdown bomb to Marquisian Chapman on a fourth-and-long in a two-minute drill.
Holgorsen, a junior college transfer, completed 7 of 9 for 131 yards, including a 61-yard quick screen to sophomore running back Jared West, who took it the distance.
Sears, a redshirt freshman, went 9-15 for 119 yards.
West rushed for a scrimmage-best 56 yards on 12 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown, and added 67 yards on three receptions. Chapman led all receivers with 117 yards on five catches while Watson snagged six for 80 yards and LSU transfer Jazz Ferguson, who will not play this fall, had 94 yards on three receptions.
Senior kicker Eric Piccione hit field goals of 43, 18 and 25 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Dezinarell Gray led all defenders with nine tackles, while senior defensive end Lyn Clark had eight.
Junior running back Ronald Green gained 54 yards on eight carries and sophomore Nigel Dora added 44 on nine runs, leading the Demons to 167 rushing yards on 34 attempts.
The scrimmage was the eight practice of 15 this spring. Head coach Jay Thomas liked the overall performance.
“I saw good and bad, fortunately more good than bad. The things we didn’t get done right, we’ll get them corrected. The effort and intensity was good,” he said.
New offensive coordinator Kyle Manley was pleased with his unit’s execution as the Demons piled up 587 total yards.
“A lot of good for the first scrimmage: no turnovers, only two penalties, we had a lot of explosive plays. We’ve got to improve getting the ball into the end zone when we are in the red zone,” said Manley.
As for evaluating the quarterback race, Manley said each candidate made a good impression.
“Some really good stuff, a couple of bad decisions by all three of them, but overall, I’d say they did a good job.”
New defensive coordinator Brad Laird said the scrimmage provided a key evaluation tool along with a step in the progression of installing a new scheme.
“It was good to go live for the first time. We got to work a lot of different scenarios today and we’re eager for what the second half of spring brings,” Laird said. “We did a good job of getting some penetrations on some pressures. You have to get off the field on third down and in two-minute situations, and that’s on me. We’ve got to learn how to play down and distance.”
The Demons have another scrimmage slated next Thursday before NSU’s spring break halts workouts until April.
Eric Piccione 43 field goal
Jared West 6 run
Piccione 18 field goal
West 61 pass from Clay Holgorsen
Piccione 25 field goal
Maquisian Chapman 77 pass from J.D. Almond
J.D. Almond 8-13, 169 yards, 1 TD; Clay Holgorsen 7-9, 119 yards, 1 TD; Kenny Sears 9-15, 119 yards.
Jaylen Watson 6-80; Marquisian Chapman 5-117, 1 TD; Jazz Ferguson 3-94; Jared West 3-67, 1 TD; Chris Fuller 2-21; Ronald Green 2-20; Kendrick Price 1-16; Gavin Landry 2-4.
Jared West 12-56, 1 TD; Ronald Green 8-54; Nigel Dora 9-44; Tyreik Campbell 3-8; Clay Holgorsen 2-5.
Dezinarell Gray 9 tackles, 4 solo; Lyn Clark 8 tackles, 5 solo, 1 sack; Ricky Chatman 7 tackles, 4 solo; Nick Pierotti 6 tackles, 4 solo; Peyton Guidry 5 tackles, 5 solo; Ian Edwards 4 tackles, 1 solo; Malik Sonnier 4 tackles, 2 solo; Lionel Williams 3 tackles, 2 solo; Ike Warren, 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 fumble forced; Deshon Ficklin 3 tackles, 2 solo; Darian Raymond 2 tackles, 1 pass breakup; Brice Borgeson 2 tackles; Luke Termin 2 tackles, 1 solo; Manny Mukes 1 tackle; Dazarie Hall 1 tackle, Khalil Sumlin 1 tackle; Stanley Woodley 1 tackle; Austin Balthazar 1 tackle; Eric Waters 1 tackle; Tremaine Whitley 1 tackle.