CLARKSVILLE, Tenn.—The final score may have read White team (offense) 43, Red team (defense) 31, in the annual Red-White Spring game Thursday night in Governors Stadium, but zero was the most important number to head coach Rick Christophel.
“The one good thing about the spring and this game is we had zero major injuries,” said Christophel. “That is one thing you always worry about, the thing you really dread the most. We had some kids get banged up this spring but one of the things I was most pleased with is we had some kids fight through it. They should mental and physical toughness.”
Another important number during the spring was No. 3. That’s the jersey number of Terrence Holt. For a third straight scrimmage, the decorated kick/punt returner showed his wares as running back. The rising junior rushed nine times for 90 yards in Thursday’s scrimmage, including an early five-yard burst. In three scrimmages, Holt rushed 25 times for 298 yards.
“Terrence has had a great spring,” Christophel said. “What I like about him is he has stepped up and started doing the other things well—blocking and catching the football. That makes him that much better of a weapon.
“And Ryan White proved what he could do last fall so we are going to have a pretty good 1-2 punch.”
Christophel was especially pleased with the offensive line. The Governors are somewhat rebuilding after losing four-year starting tackle Cage Major and three-year starting center Travis Dumke, perhaps APSU’s best offensive player last fall.
“I cannot say enough about job Steve Haywood does with those guys,” Christophel said. “But good running backs make good offensive linemen and vice versa. Steve does a great job chemistry-wise with those guys.”
In fact, in the complicated scoring system, the offense looked like it was going to run away from the defense, jumping out to a 24-5 lead at one point. But the defense began to assert itself about 20 minutes into the scrimmage and cut it all the way down to 26-24, using a 35-yard TD interception by walk-on Josh Day to apparently grab the momentum.
But redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Ryan helped stem the tide, marching the offense right back down the field, connecting with Scott Thomas on a 21-yard TD strike that all but sealed the contest.
For the night, Ryan, who had struggled during the earlier scrimmages, finished four-of-six passing for 90 yards, including a 49-yarder to top threat Darryl Miller.
Rising junior Trent Caffee started the scrimmage at quarterback and finished 5-of-12 passing for 51 yards. Fellow junior T.C. Jennings followed, completing five-of-seven attempts for 48 yards and a TD, a 15 yarder to fullback Jeff Lyle.
Senior Gary Orr, who opened 2008 as the starter, finished the scrimmage 5-of-10 passing for 26 yards.
Miller finished the night with three catches for 73 yards while Thomas also had two catches totaling 38 yards.
But APSU’s head coach certainly saw many positive aspects from the defense.
“The one thing (defensive coordinator) Granville (Eastman) and his staff wanted to accomplish this spring is play base defense and do the base things right…and we did,” Christophel said. “We had them started moving a little bit—we are going to have to do that because we are not big and strong right now.
”I think we have a chance to be good defensively because we can run.”
Christophel used a large majority of spring practice taking a long look at several redshirt freshmen defensive players.
“Our veterans are going to be decent players,” he said, “but it is our young guys who are really going to give us some depth. I am going to say it again, but I am really excited about how some of these young are really coming on. Guys like (defensive lineman) Skyler Springfield, (defensive lineman) Anthony Marion, (cornerback) Chris Taylor and (linebacker) Zac Burkhart to name a few, are guys who not only are going to help us next but years to come.”
Now the Govs will hit the weight room and the books as the semester’s closes in.
“We want to close the semester strong and then we will give them about a month off,” Christophel said. “But then we will be right back at it.”