April 5, 2014
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech's offense showed improvement and limited its turnovers as the Bulldogs scrimmaged for two hours Saturday afternoon at Joe Aillet Stadium.
For a team that struggled with turnovers last season and is replacing at least three starters on the offensive line for the second consecutive year, watching the offense find rhythm and cut down on the turnovers was a welcome relief to the coaching staff.
Saturday's scrimmage - the first of the spring for Louisiana Tech - featured 120 plays with each unit running approximately 40 plays.
"Offensively, we took a step forward today," head coach Skip Holtz said following the scrimmage. "I think we took a step forward and we have been getting better and better. Most of the offense is starting to be put in - it is not all in yet a large part, maybe 75 percent of it is. They are grasping it and we are really trying to go at a slow pace so we can execute what we are calling out there. It is not about what you call but about being able to execute it. Probably the thing that encouraged me the most is how the quarterbacks are starting to read the defenses and keep the ball out of danger."
Neither quarterback - Ryan Higgins and Scotty Young - threw an interception until well past the midway point of the scrimmage. Each was responsible for one pick; Higgins allowed Tony Johnson to get a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown while Young's pick was due to an acrobatic play by Bryson Abraham to snatch on a pass that was slightly underthrown.
In all, Higgins was responsible for three touchdowns on the day (in 11-on-11 situations) starting with a one-yard run on the first drive of the scrimmage. He also connected on a 28-yard pass to Paul Turner where the LSU transfer toe-tapped the sidelines to stay in bounds before falling into the end zone and had an eight-yard pass to Blake Martin on the final drive of the scrimmage.
"I thought it was a good scrimmage, actually it probably was one of our best practices all spring offensively," offensive coordinator Tony Petersen said. "We took care of the ball better - Ryan made a bad read on a play and through a pick - but we didn't put it on the ground as much as we have. The quarterbacks did a better job of taking care of the ball. I thought we did well for our first tackle scrimmage."
A native of Hutto, Texas, Higgins ran with the first team offense against the second team defense while Young ran reps with the second team offense against the first team defense. The two traded reps with the third team offense against the third team defense in a pass skell situation as injuries to both the offensive and defensive lines prevented 11-on-11 situations with that group.
"Right now it is hard because you don't have a lot of numbers," Holtz said of running a fast, up-tempo offense during the scrimmage. "We are out here with the threes and we don't even have enough offensive and defensive linemen to scrimmage (11-on-11) so we tried to do it in a pass skell mode. We don't have the numbers to go at a warp speed mode but we certainly have the ability to do it. Right now in the spring, we felt like we needed to huddle and that would be a big part in what we are doing to try and build leadership. It gives those guys an opportunity for those guys to come together for leadership to really start to be established and to start to gel as an offensive line and as an offensive unit. We have done a lot of huddling but we will still be up-tempo and be able to run at a fast pace like we did last year."
Other than the two interceptions, the only other turnover on the day was a fumble by Marlon Seets after an 11-yard run that was recovered by Thomas McDonald. The fumble was caused by a hard hit that had Seets on the sidelines with the athletic training staff looking at his shoulder but he would return two series later.
The only other score between the first and second team offenses was a 47-yard field goal by Kyle Fischer that split the uprights on a drive by the second team offense.
Among the scoring plays by the third team offense in the pass skell situation, Higgins connected to D.J. St. Julien on a 53-yard pass and then hit Grant Childress on a 37-yard pass for a score. He also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Terome Grant late in the scrimmage.
Louisiana Tech returns to practice Monday afternoon for the final week of spring practice. The T-Day Spring Game will be next Saturday, April 12 at 1 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium.
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