Defense Claims First Scrimmage Lawrence Has Big Day on Ground
TB Kendial Lawrence
Aug. 13, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Junior TB Kendial Lawrence ran for a pair of 60-yard touchdowns on consecutive snaps, but it was the Missouri Tiger defense which made enough plays to claim the overall 18-10 win Saturday in Mizzou's first full-scale scrimmage of the fall.
On a sun-splashed Faurot Field, the Tiger defense controlled things early on, as senior LB Will Ebner intercepted a pass thrown into traffic near the offense's 10-yardline, and he rambled into the endzone for short interception return. It was the first of five interceptions gathered by the defense on the day, with freshmen David Johnson, Ian Simon and Ernest Payton each grabbing one. Sophomore LB Donovan Bonner made a very nice play on the final snap of the scrimmage to end the two-minute drill of the reserve offense, when he stepped in front of a ball over the middle and wrestled it away from the intended receiver to secure the turnover.
The offense eventually found its gear, and it was Lawrence who provided the momentum. Going against the #2 defense, Lawrence took a handoff from QB James Franklin and made a cutback against the flow in the backfield and burst through the line. He found the next gear in a hurry, and suddenly he was splitting the converging safeties down the middle of the field. He raced 60 yards untouched for the first offensive score of the day.
On the next play, the ball was set on the 40-yardline going the other way, and it was virtually a carbon copy of the previous snap, as Lawrence took the handoff, changed directions in the backfield, and went around the right edge to break free. He got some great downfield interference blocking from receivers Wes Kemp and Brandon Gerau that sprung him the final 20 yards to paydirt and a second 60-yard score.
With the ground game in high gear, sophomore TB Henry Josey also got in on the act as he scored on an 11-yard run later in the day. But it wasn't all ground game, as Franklin rebounded from his tough start to find senior WR Wes Kemp on a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass. Kemp made a highlight-reel worthy diving catch and landed in the endzone for the score. The force of the fall caused him to injure his right hip, and he did not return for the rest of the day.
Junior DE Brad Madison recorded a sack and a pass break up early on the day, but had leave after sustaining a strained left shoulder. The prognosis for his return won't be known until tests are run on the shoulder.
Even with Madison on the sideline, the number one defense held its own, as it didn't allow a touchdown on the day. The veteran unit also closed the day strongly, as it held the #2 offense without a first down on a pair of two-minute drill situations. Senior CB Trey Hobson had a strong showing as he batted away a couple of passes to force a four-and-out on the first series of that sequence.
The Tigers will enjoy Sunday off, their first day off since beginning camp on August 4th. They'll return to the practice field Monday, with two practices scheduled. Stay tuned to www.mutigers.com for continuing coverage of pre-season camp.
"I think overall, I thought our experienced players - we've got a lot of experienced guys - I just didn't see the consistency of play out of our experienced players, so I was disappointed in that. I think we've got the making of a pretty good football team, but we've got to really get the attention to details taken care of. There's a lot of competition, there's some guys moving up and moving down. There were some good things and bad things. I just expected our experienced players - and we've got a lot of them who have played a lot - to play at a more consistently-high level."
On James Franklin...
"Well he started a little slow but I thought he did really well when he got going. I think that he's doing a lot of good things. He's a young player, but again when the nine starters around him started to play better, he played better. I thought he really did some good things."
"Steve Drain has a knee sprain. Kenji Jackson has a hamstring. (Brad) Madison has a shoulder sprain. Jimmy Burge has a concussion and Wes Kemp has a hip. But, you know, that happens. That's why backup players have to be ready. We don't whine about things like that. The good news is all those guys are going to get back, but you've got to get backups ready to play."
"Kendial was a spark, and he's been practicing like that. That's encouraging. He's making big plays. If you want to be an impact offensive football team, you've got to have playmakers. You've got to have guys who make special plays in special situations."
On the impact of the scrimmage...
"It's everything, we analyze everything we do. We grade every single play that we saw today - offense, defense, kicking. We learn from it, we learn from our experiences."
"You've got to improve every day in all aspects of the game from here on out. We had a lot of good things and a lot of things we need to work on. We'll get those things fixed this week and over the next few weeks and be ready for Miami."
On his interception returned for a touchdown...
"That's just the game of football. You never know when it'll come to you. I just saw his shoulder turn - that's what we were taught to do, break when the shoulder turns - and I broke for it. The corner put pressure on the outside and probably forced [Franklin] to throw the ball a little more inside. I felt T.J.'s [Moe] hands on it also. I was just the one that came up with it.
On the defense today...
"We got a lot of work still. We won the scrimmage, which is good, winning is always a good thing, but we got a lot of things to improve on. As you could see at the end of practice, the coaches weren't ecstatic, which is what you need. You don't want to be satisfied ever. We're going to get back in the film room and on the practice field and get ready to go."
"I should've just thrown it away instead of trying to force it. That's something I know and was thinking about afterwards but at the time I wasn't thinking about it."
On being able to bounce back after a bad play...
"It has to do a lot with our sports psychology class that we did in the summer. All the coaches talk about positive self-talk. If you make a bad play, don't worry about it. Get the good from it, flush the bad, and just move on. You can't do anything about the last play, but you can always do something about the next play. "
On the response from his teammates...
"One thing that also got me going was De'Vion [Moore] on the sideline after I came out, he said `James, you are a great quarterback.' He said that and it gave me a little more confidence, and that's something I can apply on the field."
"Working hard at practice. The little things - the blocking schemes, reading defenses well, stuff like that - it's just the little things that get you ready for the big scrimmage."
On what the coaches want from him...
"They just want me to focus on the little things and correct them, that way when you get to a game, you have the little things right and it'll all be a lot easier. You always have to do more. There's never a point where you can feel settled. Like I said, the little things matter a lot in big games. Focusing on them and getting them taken care of are really important."
On emerging as the No. 1 running back...
"Obviously as a running back you always want to be the number one guy, and you want those carries. You feel like if you work hard in the offseason you have something to prove, so getting the carries is pretty important. You always have to go out there and work your hardest and get better at practice so that you can transfer over to scrimmages and big games."
On how he's improved since his freshman year...
"I feel like I've come pretty far. Just working hard in the offseason, coming together with the offensive line and learning their blocking schemes and what they do. They make it real easy for us guys to read the hole and just hit it with our speed and use our ability to get through there and get extra yards. I just feel like I'm really comfortable with the schemes and I had a good offseason."
On his first 60-yard touchdown run...
"I was pressing my point and I just read the defense and they shot out and there was a cutback there and I just hit it. Coach Jones always says just hit it, don't make your cuts, just hit it, and that's what I did."
On barely being touched on his two long touchdowns...
"It says it all for the offensive line. Just getting those guys out of the way, putting us right to the hole, we've just got to use our speed and ability to get to the end zone. That says a lot for the offensive line."