By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports
RUSTON — Louisiana Tech’s one-hour Spring Game Saturday morning didn’t have the urgency of a championship bout, but it wasn’t pick-up ball in the backyard either.
“It wasn’t (recess),” returning starting nose guard Keivie Rose said, “but the coaches did tell us to just have fun and not worry too much about messing up, to just execute the plays called and do our jobs. There wasn’t really pressure to it; it was just another practice.”
Only this one was with a healthy crowd of fans, including more than 100 lettermen and their families for a cookout and reunion in the North End Zone at Aillet Stadium. And this “practice” was one with scoring, although that was the weird part.
The offense won the “game,” 41-20. The offense’s scores came on some conventional TD passes (6 points each), some passes of 15+ and 10+ yards (2 points each), first downs (1 point each), and the like. The defense scored on some three-and-outs (3 points each), stopped drives and sacks (2 points each) but could have used a couple of defensive touchdowns (12 points a pop) to tighten things up.
Still, it was football. Rose seemed in midseason tackling and dance form after he got one of the defensive’s four sacks and busted an understated move.
“I think we finished spring at a good point to be ready to pick back up at the end of the summer,” said the personable 6-3, 301-pound sophomore from Henderson, Texas. “I’m going to do my best over the summer to get in the best shape I can and to learn more.”
Four-time C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll recipient and three-year starter at guard Joshua Mote was one of several front-liners to watch the game as a medical precaution instead of playing in it.
He would not be surprised by a breakout season from junior tackle Biron Rossell, who’s played through injuries the past two seasons, and feels the line has benefitted from a simplified offense that’s allowed them to “play faster.”
“I think we’ve got a good mix with the younger guys,” he said. “They’ve been around a year or two and realize what it takes to learn and understand what’s going on in live-action college football; it’s a whole lot faster than high school.”
Transfer quarterbacks Matthew Downing (TCU) and Parker McNeil (Texas Tech) have “fit in with the locker room,” an encouraging sign at a position that he’s seen as “up for grabs.”
Downing was 9-of-12 for 110 yards and a touchdown pass Saturday, and McNeil was 6-of-10 for 65 yards and a 24-yard TD on a flea-flicker to Bud Holloway, one of two scoring catches by “Air Bud.”
“Today was about our players, the fans, and the alumni having a great experience and getting to enjoy the day,” first-year head coach Sonny Cumbie said. “We as coaches have had 14 practices to work, coach, and prepare so we’ve had a chance to do our thing. Today was about the players getting to do theirs and the fans taking in the work we’ve put in so far.”
The Bulldogs open the season against the Missouri Tigers in Columbus on Sept. 1 at 7 pm on ESPNU.
Photo by TIM SMITH, Louisiana Tech