Bowling Green, Ky. — Marell Booker scored from five yards out on 3rd-and-goal to help lead the Red Team to a 16-10 overtime victory over the White Team in Western Kentucky University’s annual spring football game Saturday at L.T. Smith Stadium/Jimmy Feix Field.
Booker started the overtime possession with a seven-yard pass from K.J. Black, while Black put the team in scoring range by rushing for 13 yards and a first down on the next play.
Chris Walker recorded tackles for loss on each of the White’s first two plays of the extra session, then after a four-yard completion from David Wolke to Jake Gaebler an incomplete pass on 4th-and-10 clinched the victory.
Booker’s score provided the only points after halftime.
In an evenly-contested game, the Red outgained the White 235-224 and was credited with one more first down, holding a 14-13 advantage in the category. Neither team committed a turnover as well.
“I thought it went really well,” said Hilltopper head coach David Elson. “Our guys came out focused and ready. One of the reasons we held the draft [to pick teams] after 14 tough practices was to get everyone excited, and they responded. We competed well throughout, so for the game to go to overtime was good for us because in the fall we can go back and say we’ve been in that situation in 2007 already.
“I was very, very pleased with the effort and what everyone got done today.”
Black set the tone early in the contest, as he led a 13-play drive that took more than half the opening period before Zac Minturn hit a 46-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. He ran for 20 yards and threw for 38 more on the possession.
The White was able to move into scoring range on its first drive before settling for a long field-goal attempt, but it managed to tie the score, 3-3, with 11:05 left before the half on a 53-yard Chris James field goal. After the defense forced a 3-and-out, Wolke completed three passes to Gaebler for 32 yards before an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8 at the Red 36-yard line stalled the march.
Wolke would hit Gaebler seven times for 58 yards on the day as he finished 10-of-18 passing for 71 yards.
The Red regained the lead on its next possession, driving 62 yards in 10 plays before Black found Jamar Jones in the back corner of the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the 8-yard line with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the White-23 on the previous play, Black completed a pass to Curtis Hamilton for 15 yards to set up the score.
Hamilton led all players with eight catches for 103 yards, while Black was 14-of-20 for 144 yards passing while finding five different receivers. Black added 85 yards on 17 carries for 229 yards of total offense.
A 10-play, 80-yard drive supplied the White Team’s answer, as it turned to the ground to tie the score again two-and-a-half minutes before the break. Jared Johnson — who finished with 27 yards on four attempts — recorded gains of 13 and 11 yards on the first two plays of the drive, while Hayden followed with carries for 11 and 17 yards before his 6-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-3 knotted the score again.
Hayden was the game’s leading ground-gainer after posting 93 yards on 14 carries, as his effort helped the White hold a 153-91 edge in rushing yards.
The White came closest to adding points in the second half, but had a 41-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right with six miunutes to go in regulation.
Darvis McBride was credited with eight tackles (five solo) to lead the Red, while Jihad Morris and Walker finished with seven stops apiece. Darius Baughman and Robert Dark both chipped in with six tackles.
Jeremy Moore averaged 45.8 yards per punt on four kicks to lead the group’s special teams unit.
Evan Brewer matched McBride for game-high honors with eight stops, with three coming behind the line of scrimmage including a pair of sacks for a loss of 22 yards. Rashad Etheridge added six stops while also running back a kickoff for 35 yards, with Dan Cline, Brad Cloud and L.J. Harbison recording six tackles also.
At halftime, the coaching staff presented several spring practice awards. Blake Boyd (defense) and Wolke (offense) were given the Romeo Crennel Leadership Award, while the Darryl Drake Most Improved Freshman Award went to Entonia Johnson (defense) and Ronnie Letcher (offense). Black earned the Joe Arnold Most Improved Offense Back Award, with Jessie Quinn named the Joey Stockton Most Improved Wide Receiver and Butch Gilbert Most Improved Offensive Lineman honors going to Derrick Elder. The Lonnie Schuster Most Improved Defensive Lineman Award was presented to Cline, Ben Sowders picked up the Dale Lindsay Most Improved Linebacker Award while Etheridge was named the Virgil Livers Most Improved Defensive Back. The Peter Martinez Most Improved Special Teams Award was given to Moore.
“We have to get our guys who are nicked up healthy in the training room so they’ll be ready to come back and train this summer,” Elson said. “It will also be big to get our other newcomers here and into our system so they can learn WKU football and how we do things as well our playbook — we’d like to get them acclimated as quick as possible to see who’s going to be able to help us as we put everything together leading up to Sept. 1.”
WKU will open the 2007 campaign with a trip to Gainesville, Fla., that day to take on defending national champion Florida.