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Sun Shines on Stellar Saturday Practice

April 12, 2008
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The defense forces ball carrier Shay Nicholson (22) to run laterally during Saturday’s 11-on-11 drills.

The defense forces ball carrier Shay Nicholson (22) to run laterally during Saturday's 11-on-11 drills.

The offense and the defense took turns shining, Saturday morning, at Williams Stadium in Liberty's 11th practice of the spring season. Thunderstorms in the Lynchburg area delayed the start of the 10 a.m. practice, as head coach Danny Rocco had his team start the day inside.

More time was spent inside the meeting rooms before the Flames utilized the spacious locker room and weight room inside the Williams Football Operations Center to start practice. While rain fell outside, the Flames were stretching and going through their positional "teach" drills inside. Just as the team reached the turf of Williams Stadium at 11 a.m. the rain subsided, and the sun began to shine through.

The way the offense and defense took turns shining, the sun served as a metaphor for the happenings to come at Williams Stadium on Saturday. "I was real pleased with practice today," said Rocco. "The offense and the defense took turns controlling the tempo and the line of scrimmage."

Liberty ran 84 plays on the afternoon with officials present to keep both sides of the ball honest. Brock Smith completed 16-of-19 during the 11-on-11 scrimmage. Smith's three incomplete passes were results of one throw away, a dropped interception by Kent Hicks and an errant toss to Dominic Bolden.

Other then the three miscues, Smith was on point, twice hitting receivers in triple coverage with pin-point accuracy. Smith hit a streaking Bolden as Chris Rocco, Brandon Saunders and Chuck Duffey were all in the vicinity. After a break and a drill on kickoff coverage, the Flames returned to 11-on-11 and Smith connected with Jonathan Crawford on a 20-yard strike in the midst of Chris Rocco, Patrick Calvary and Duffey.

Next on the practice plan was some situation work, a place where the defense really made an impression. The 11-on-11 work continued in third-down situations. The first team offense was 5-of-6 on third-down scenarios against the second-team defense, but the first-team defense stuck it to the second team offense, including back-to-back sacks by Nick Hursky. The lone bright spot in the drill for the second stringers was Mike Brown's touchdown hook up with Matt Lambros on a third-and-six situation.

Practice closed with the two-minute drill. The offense started at its own 35-yard line, and Smith wasted no time getting things started after his first attempt was incomplete behind Rashad Jennings. Smith then connected with Bolden for a 21-yard gain, bringing the Flames to the defense's 44-yard line. Smith then threw away a pass when he had no viable options, setting up perhaps one of the most exciting plays of the Rocco era. Smith dropped back and unleashed a perfect spiral pass down the left side of the field, which a leaping Crawford hauled in over his shoulder, Willie Mays style, to the defensive eight-yard line.

"I told the team after practice that in my three years, that throw and catch is the best play I have seen," remarked Rocco.

The catch set up a 23-yard field goal by David Drake to win the two-minute battle. The defense then shut down the second team, as neither Spencer Landis nor Mike Brown could get the offense past the defensive 40-yard line.

Practice officially ended on an upbeat note, as players gathered around the field goal unit, chanting "championship, championship," Ben Shipps connected on a 37-yard field goal attempt to close Saturday's workout.

"I like how things went today," stated Rocco. "We need to finish strong as we head into the last week of the spring season."

The Flames return to the field on Tuesday at 7 p.m., on the FieldTurf of Williams Stadium.

Rocco's Injury Report
"I made the decision to not do full scrimmaging this morning. We have a lot of guys banged up like Alex Stadler and Zach Davis on the offensive line. Terry Adams went down today and Tim Torrence is still not 100 percent. Ryan Greiser has been battling back problems, so we decided to not go live today."

Fun Facts
Assistant Athletic Trainer Aaron Schreiner was in a rush after practice. Schreiner was on his way to the old Pate Chapel for men's basketball player Anthony Smith's wedding. Schreiner also serves the basketball team as its primary trainer.