COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Quarterback Darian Stone was spot-on Saturday in leading the offense during Tennessee Tech’s annual Purple/Gold Spring Scrimmage, directing a Golden Eagle group that appears loaded with skilled players.
“We’ve got some skills guys,” said veteran coach Watson Brown, after the team rolled up 494 yards on 72 offensive plays. The team had 35 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 37 times for 218 yards and five more scores.
“Darian Stone played at a very high level today,” Brown said. “I think he kind of separated himself from the others. The young guys are coming along well, but Darian is playing very well.”
Stone was 9-for-13 for 181 yards and two touchdowns, a one-yard slant to Cody Matthews and a 58-yard hookup with Krys Cates.
“I think starting those last four games last year has made a lot of difference,” Brown said of Stone’s confidence. “He’s running the team well and he’s very poised out there. He’s taking steps now that he might not have if he had been the backup in those four games.”
Bud Golden led the ground game with 70 yards including a touchdown on nine carries.
“Bud is running much better right now,” Brown said. “He’s lost some weight and he’s finally healthy. He’s stronger and he’s more explosive.”
On the other side of scrimmage, 29 different players made tackles for the defense which posted four quarterback sacks, forced one fumble and had one interception.
“We didn’t do as much Ones against Ones, so the numbers were a little more dominating when the One’s were out there,” Brown explained.
Jordan Patrick, a walk-on from Alcoa, Tenn., had the best numbers for the defense with five tackles, a quarterback sack. He forced the only fumble of the scrimmage. Jimmy Laughlin, who emerged as a late-season starter as a true freshman, grabbed the interception, halting a drive late in the day when he picked off a pass by freshman Jared Davis over the middle.
Linebacker Blake Adams had four tackles in the contest while several players were credited with three stops, incuding James Huguely, Doug Page, Lamar Moore, Patrick Prewitt and Seth McDonald.
Moore had two of the quarterback sacks. Huguely, Prewitt, Daniel Pierce and Harrison Reid all broke up pass attempts.
Tech’s receivers finished with a strong day, but didn’t start that way. Five of the first six incomplete passes were dropped balls, stunting the numbers by signal-callers Davis and Trent Thompson.
Davis finished 6-for-13 for 67 yards while Thompson wound up 1-for-5 for seven yards. Matt Hamby directed one series and went 2-for-4 for 21 yards. Altogether, the four quarterbacks were a combined 18-for-35 for 276 yards.
Krys Cates was the top receiver with two catches for 86 yards, including his 58-yard scoring play. Eric Belew had a team-high three catches for 36 yards. Cody Matthews also caught three balls for 18 yards, including his one-yard TD.
Diminutive Ladarius Vanlier was the top all-purpose ball-handler, accounting for 102 yards on five plays. He had four carries for 60 yards, including a 44-yard burst that set up a short TD, and caught one pass that he toted for 42 yards, setting up another easy score.
Punter Chad Zinchini showed off his leg during the “halftime” part of the afternoon. He boomed seven kicks for an average of 43.5 yards, including a couple of short-field kicks that limited his range. When called on to pin the opponent deep, he poked on kick out-of-bounds at the three and downed another at the four.
Placekicker Zach Sharp had just two chances, making a 35-yard field goal and hitting the upright on a 22-yard miss.
The scrimmage Saturday was the first event of a busy weekend for the Golden Eagles, who will enjoy their annual Awards Dinner Sunday afternoon, Brown and his staff will announce the team’s award winners for the 2012 season, including the Robert Hill Johnson Award, which was announced in February going to quarterback Tre Lamb.
After that, the team has three sessions remaining on Overall Field, with practices Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and one final scrimmage Friday.
“We have a very hard week left,” Brown said. “I like holding this scrimmage in the third week, but I need our guys to realize that spring practice is not over. Tuesday and Thursday will be very physical days, and Friday will be more of a situational scrimmage.”