"This was more typical of a game," said Samkon Gado, the former Liberty running back turned Green Bay Packer, who was in town for the festivities. "It just shows the excitement with the football program is really starting to permeate throughout the school. The school is really starting to take this seriously. I'm really excited about it. I did not expect this many people to show up."
Rocco didn't want Saturday's controlled scrimmage to be called a spring game, because in reality, it was not a game. Rocco scripted 80 plays for Saturday's scrimmage in an effort to replicate certain situations. So even after a 10-yard run on 1st-and-10, the Flames would line up for a 2nd-and-7 on the next play.
Even so, there was enough to keep the largest crowd to ever watch a Liberty spring game entertained.
Rashad Jennings, the former LCA standout and Pittsburgh transfer, ran for 99 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns. Even without live hitting, the 250-pound Jennings was able to display his prodigious skills package. He pounded the ball up the middle for yardage, changed directions on counter plays and cut back through holes for big gains, including a 30-yard TD run.
"Rashad's going to get most of his yards after contact," Rocco said. "When you play in an environment like this, where you're thudding up on the ballcarrier, the whistle is blowing on the thud. There's always going to be that extra three, four, five yards after the thud. You'll see bigger and better things from him in the fall."
Zach Terrell had eight carries for 37 yards and completed 5 of 7 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Chris Luck caught three passes for 63 yards, including a one-handed circus grab of a Brock Smith throw over the middle in the first half.
Rocco didn't allow live tackling at the scrimmage because he didn't see the need in risking injury, especially with the Flames partaking in their final set of drills on Williams Stadium's dilapidated artificial turf. The installation of FieldTurf at Williams will begin next month.
Still, Rocco had a good feel for how much his team improved over the span of 15 April practices.
"The kids worked hard all spring long," Rocco said. "There's a good spirit to the team, a lot of energy. The leadership has come a long way. There's enough talent around here to be good.
"We're going to compete this year and we're going to be good this year. I don't know what that means in terms of wins and losses, but we're going to put a good product on the field."
The fact that Saturday's final practice wasn't really much of a game didn't seem to bother the fans.
The buzz of the start of the Rocco era hasn't worn off yet, and Liberty officials hope it carries through the summer months and to the start of the season Aug. 31.
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