Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University football team took to the field for the first scrimmage of 2009 spring practice Saturday afternoon at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium/Jimmy Feix Field.
The nearly two-hour scrimmage put the Hilltopper offense and defense in different starting position, with the first half focusing on first- and third-down situations.
"I thought we were sloppy at times, but we’re young and have put in a lot of new things, so you know some of the mistakes we made will be corrected with repetition," said WKU head coach David Elson. "I hoped we would have been a little sharper on offense earlier, but our defense started with a lot of energy and played well early, and the offense responded and finished strong."
Both the first and second team offenses were able to put points on the board on drives starting deep in the defense’s territory. Casey Tinius connected on three field goals from 43, 36 and 29 yards, while Zac Minturn was good from 25 yards.
Bobby Rainey also found the end zone twice on the ground, scoring from five yards out with the second team, and one yard for a first-team offense touchdown. Rainey finished the day with seven carries for 43 yards and the two scores.
Bobby really ran the ball well," said Elson. "He gave a spark when he was in there and he got more comfortable with his reads and hitting his holes."
Brandon Smith accounted for another red zone touchdown when he connected with Jake Gaebler for a six-yard scoring pass.
Smith — who connected on 12 of 17 passes for 105 yards — was also impressive at the end of the scrimmage when he led the first team on 75 and 70-yard scoring drives. The first of the two scores saw Smith complete three of four passes for 27 yards as the offense marched 75 yards on eight plays, and capped it off with a six-yard scoring run by Marell Booker.
A nine-play, 70-yard drive closed out the day for the offense. Smith opened the drive with a 26-yard completion to Tristan Jones, and then closed out the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. Rainey also carried the ball three times for 20 yards.
While the scrimmage was the first opportunity for the Hilltoppers to take the field together in a game-like situation, it was also the first opportunity for new offensive and defensive coordinators Walter Wells and Mike Dietzel to call plays and see their newly implemented schemes and plays in action.
"You can see that both those guys are getting more and more comfortable. They have done a good job getting things installed and get things taught," said Elson. "The players are responding well, and I’m really pleased with the progress on both sides. We just have to get experience and keep playing together."
Three different quarterbacks saw action under center, as Kawaun Jakes completed seven passes for 63 yards, and Anthony Sheppard was 5-of-8 for 64 yards. Gaebler caught five passes and tallied 32 receiving yards, while Dexter Haynes led the second team with four catches for 34 yards.
Defensively, Taurean Smith led all players with eight tackles, while Avery Hibbitt added seven stops and Dexter Taylor and Chris Bullard posted six each.
The scrimmage marked the fifth of 15 spring practices for WKU, culminating in the 2009 Red/White Spring Game on April 25.
WKU, one of only 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A) teams, are eligible for a bowl berth and the Sun Belt Conference championship for the first time in 2009.