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Countdown to Kickoff: A Look Back at Training Camp's Final Scrimmage
Practicing under the lights for the second-straight evening, Liberty ran a mock game day, Tuesday evening, on the turf at Williams Stadium.
The team practiced everything from "A to Z," according to head coach Danny Rocco, starting with pregame warm ups, to Rocco's past game talk in the locker room.
On the evening, Liberty ran 138 plays, covering every game situation, including first and second downs, goal line plays and special teams' calls.
"All in all, I thought it was a pretty clean practice," commented Rocco. "We had a few situations arise, which would have resulted in a penalty, but that is why we have a practice like tonight. I would much rather have them happen today than a week from Saturday when we are on the field with Tusculum."
"Looking back, I feel good about tonight," continued Rocco. "We are just trying to educate these kids on what we are expecting."
Last Wednesday, the Flames took a good portion of their afternoon practice to scrimmage. During the practice session, the defense hunkered down and dominated the offense, showing why they ranked No. 12 last year in the nation in scoring defense.
However, Tuesday evening saw the offense snap back, starting with the play of junior Brock Smith. The quarterback looked at ease under center, completing 18-of-23 pass attempts, under easier conditions as the No. 1 offense was pitted against the No. 2 defense.
Smith was much more successful on the evening, bringing a smile back to Rocco's face. "I thought Brock looked sharp and the receivers ran crisp routes. The backs were able to find holes to gain solid yardage, and the timing for the passing game looked good."
Reserve signal callers Spencer Landis and Mike Brown also looked polished. Landis completed 10-of-19 passes and Brown was 5-for-8. Both quarterbacks battled the No. 1 defense.
Rashad Jennings averaged nearly six yards per carry on 11 attempts, including a 21-yard blast on a fourth-down play and a short-yardage touchdown on a goal-line play.
Zach Terrell also looked sharp, carrying the ball nine times for an average of almost five yards, including a touchdown on a nice cut back on a Red Zone play. Wide out Wynton Jackson was also called upon to carry the ball twice. Each time, he ran for roughly 12 yards, including a score on a reverse.
However, most of Jackson's damage was done downfield. The redshirt senior pulled in eight receptions. His most spectacular reception was a 22-yard catch over the middle, where he leaped to pull in the ball.
The first team defense also looked sharp on the evening, paced by senior captain Steven Ackley. The defensive lineman got to Liberty's quarterbacks four times on the night. Each play would have resulted in a sack, had the team been tackling. His final time came against Smith late in the practice when the No. 1 squads squared off.
The defensive backs showcased their abilities during the nearly two-hour practice. Pat Dickerson batted down a pass which would have gone for a touchdown, and Chris Rocco tipped a ball, which fell just out of the reach of Ryan Best on an interception attempt.
Ryan Greiser also got into the act picking off a pass from Landis, when the sophomore quarterback released the ball to avoid being sacked by Ackley. Greiser was awaiting the errant throw in the corner of the end zone for the INT.
"All things considered, I was pleased with my guy's performance tonight," closed Rocco. "As a coach you always want more, but I think we are right where we need to be. This team is very mature. I have no doubts that when they hit the red line to take the field next Saturday, they will be juiced up and ready to go."
The Flames have today off, as Rocco wants the players to get acclimated to their class schedule and attend the school's first convocation service of the year.
Liberty returns to the practice field for a pair of afternoon practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, directly following the squad's daily 2:15 p.m. team meeting. Both practices are scheduled to take place on the turf at Williams Stadium.
LibertyFlames.com returns tomorrow with another assistant coach interview. During Thursday session, we will visit with offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim, who will talk about the size and depth of Liberty's front line.
Flame Facts from Practice:
• Rocco plans to run the Thursday and Friday afternoon practices just like a Tuesday game-week practice.
• During a normal Tuesday game-week practice, which are typically more physical, the coaching staff focuses on first and second down plays and predominately run and play-action pass sequences. • Zac Kolegue continues to look solid as the Flames' punter. The senior handled all the punting duties during Tuesday evening's practice.
• Kolegue averaged 38.2 yards per punt, pinning Liberty's return specialists inside the 20-yard line three times on five kicks, and booting a 45-yarder from deep inside his own end zone.
• Noah Greenbaum almost capped off a solid scrimmage on a high note, as the transfer came up a bit short on a 52-yard field goal attempt on the evening's final play.
• A 50-plus yard field goal doesn't seem to be outside the senior's range as Rocco notes after practice that Greenbaum knocked down a 57-yard field goal earlier.
• Rocco wasn't kidding when he wanted to practice everything from pregame warm ups to his postgame talk in the locker room. After the final play of the scrimmage, Ed Gomes gathered the players at midfield for a postgame prayer.
• Following the prayer, the team went over to the base of the student section at Williams Stadium and sang the school's fight song, just like they will during the season.
• Redshirt junior Brady Hassell climbed over the railing into the student section to lead the squad in a rousing version of "Fan the Flames."
• Football practice continues to be a hot spot around campus, as the Flames drew a considerable number of observers on Tuesday evening. Several Liberty students enjoyed the late August evening at Williams Stadium.