After getting pushed around during the first scrimmage of training camp, the Stetson defense came back with a vengeance on Wednesday night in the final scrimmage before the start of the 2014 season.
The Hatters’ defense limited the offense to just 46 total rushing yards, thanks in large part to the 12 sacks and nine other tackles for loss. The defense also forced five turnovers on the night.
“Being the head coach, the bad part is that the last couple of weeks I have really felt good about the offense, and the defense looked bad and I didn’t sleep,” head coach Roger Hughes said. “Tonight, the defense looked good and the offense looked bad, so I still won’t sleep.”
The only other points in the scrimmage came on a 46-yard field goal by Grant Amick.
Part of the improvement on the defensive side was the return of several key players, including Payne, who had seven tackles to go with his interception as well as a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
“The nice thing was we got five guys back tonight that we haven’t had,” Hughes said. “When you have number 7 (Payne) out there, it makes a big difference. On defense, we made a lot of big plays and offensively, I didn’t think we showed up to play.”
The offense managed just 46 rushing yards in the scrimmage on 66 attempts. Sophomore Dre Long was the leading rusher with just 36 yards on seven carries.
With starting quarterback Ryan Tentler taking the night off after slightly spraining his ankle on Monday, the two players in contention for the backup job, Plattsmier and sophomore Jonathan Jerozal, took center stage.
Plattsmier completed just 8-of-23 attempts, but threw for 176 yards. He was intercepted once. Jerozal completed 10-of-23 attempts for 108 yards, but was intercepted twice and fumbled the ball away twice.
“I told the team that it was a debacle,” Hughes said. “We had too many penalties, too many turnovers and too many dropped balls. We ran around like we had 50-pound bags on our hips. We just didn’t compete.
“Both Blake and Jon have had moments of looking outstanding and moments of not looking very good at all. It has really been a bipolar performance for both of them.”
On the defensive side, sophomore Davion Belk had seven tackles, including three for loss and a sack, and also broke up two passes. Freshmen Mason Johnson and Eddie Curry also made an impression. Johnson recorded five tackles, including three sacks while Curry had four tackles, one for loss, and two pass pass breakups.
In addition to the 12 sacks, the defense had 12 hurries and 10 breakups.
“The defense brought a lot of pressure tonight that we have handled pretty well, but we didn’t handle it tonight,” Hughes said. “I was really excited about the pass-rush tonight because we were using a lot of four-man front and were still getting pressure. It was encouraging that we were not having to bring eight or nine guys to get some pressure.”
The Hatters now have 10 days to get ready for their 2014 season opener against Warner in Lakeland on August 30. During those 10 days the team will have to plan for a team with a new coaching staff and a lot of unknowns.
“With an immature team, I think it is better for us to have had a bad performance tonight, because it gives you a reason to rip them,” Hughes said. “I think we found out something about ourselves tonight. I am glad we stunk the joint up, because it is a wake-up call. If they have matured, like I think they have, they will bounce back from this with a greater sense of urgency.”