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Countdown to Kickoff: Defense Stymies Offense During Wednesday's Scrimmage
Liberty's defense stood Wednesday afternoon during the third scrimmage of training camp on the turf at Williams Stadium. The stellar performance included a lengthy interception, which was almost returned for a touchdown on the final play.
"The defense looked pretty good today," reflected Rocco after the practice. "They were just well ahead of the offense today. It is hard to sit here and be disappointed, because there were some good things that did happen. However, who just weren't consistent."
Liberty's defense, which ranked No. 12 nationally last year in scoring defense en route to setting a school record for fewest points allowed, was certainly the bright spot of the two-plus hour practice.
The unit knocked down several passes, recorded numerous sacks and ended the practice when Brandon Duke picked off a pass from Brock Smith and nearly returned it 50-plus yards for a touchdown, to summarize Liberty's offensive inefficiency on the afternoon.
Smith finished the scrimmage by completing 11-of-22 pass attempts and back-up Spencer Landis added an 8-for-15 effort under center. Rookie Mike Brown completed 1-of-3 passes, but had several nice scampers for significant yardage when he wasn't able to find his initial target.
Of the 38 run plays on the afternoon, Rashad Jennings and Zach Terrell were called on for 17 of those attempts. However, the dynamic duo which rushed for a combined 1,693 yards last year, was held to just 52 during the scrimmage. Jennings rushed eight times for approximately 18 yards, followed by Terrell's 34 yards on nine carries.
During the scrimmage session, the first teams clashed against each other, followed by the second-team units. Offensively, a few reserves looked good during the second-team match ups.
Wes Cheek carried the ball six times for 27 yards and caught a nice 16-yard screen pass from Landis to pick up a first down. A few drives later, wide receiver Eugene Rogers got the Flames another third-down conversion with a 21-yard reception on a slant route.
Rocco was pleased with the team's tempo throughout the practice, including the team's effort on substitutions, which was impressive with the Flames running live game situations.
"Today was probably the best day we have had in terms of substitutions," added Rocco. "We got a lot of people on and off the field today because the guys were focused and alert."
Rocco announced after the practice that the team will be shortening its planned two-a-day schedule on Thursday to just an evening practice, starting at 6:45 p.m. on the turf at Williams Stadium. Thursday's schedule was supposed to feature the fourth and final two-a-day practice of training camp.
LibertyFlames.com will continue its Countdown to Kickoff coverage tomorrow with its sit down interview with wide receivers coach Charlie Skalaski, followed by a special two-a-day report on Friday. LibertyFlames.com will return to practice coverage on Saturday, when the team has a special teams afternoon scrimmage.
Flame Facts from Practice:
• The team moved quickly through their scrimmage plays this afternoon, with the practice ending 30 minutes early.
• Besides Duke's interception to cap off a strong defensive effort on the afternoon, Liberty batted down several pass attempts.
• Ryan Greiser nearly picked off a pass, which was just out of Dominic Bolden's outstretched arms, over the middle of the field.
• Ian Childress almost added his name to the afternoon interception list, as he broke up a Landis slant pass to the outside.
• Tomorrow evening's practice will be a strong teaching session. During each team period, the Flames will run just one play type, allowing both the offense and defense to refine their skills on the play type.
• For example, Liberty will run 10 to 12-consecutive one-back, two-tight end formations, giving the coaching staff extra time to break down the play type.
• In addition to the offense, the special teams looked solid during the afternoon practice.
• Liberty closed out the "first half" of the scrimmage by working on its punting drills. Zac Kolegue, who finished the afternoon averaging 36.0 yards per punt, took all the snaps, including a 28-yard punt from midfield which pinned Wynton Jackson inside the 20-yard line.
• Noah Greenbaum knocked down all seven of his field goal attempts, ranging from 32 to 40 yards.
• Rocco is pleased with his special teams effort, commenting, "Noah is doing well right now as he has good range and is relatively consistent. And Zac has continued his strong summer of punting."
• Construction on the six luxury suites around Williams Stadium continued to progress prior to practice. The final assembly stages began with blue skirting being added to the base of the unit.
• For more about the luxury suite installation, including photos, click here to catch LibertyFlames.com's mid-week review.