CAMP REPORT #20: Offense Runs Into Strong Defense in Passages Scrimmage
Aug. 16, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Strong defensive play from defensive lineman Keenan Wimbley, along with two blistering runs by tailbacks Walter Mendenhall and Geno Blow highlighted the 111 plays of the Illinois State football team's annual Passages Scrimmage Saturday night at Hancock Stadium.
"We've been through a tough camp and we have had a lot of contact, so I'm kind of relieved (to be done with camp)," said head coach Denver Johnson. "I wanted to get some things accomplished (Saturday) night and I wanted to do it without injury, and I think we did that.
"This concludes camp. We will step back a couple of days; get class started, resume practice Tuesday and focus on Marshall."
Wimbley led a strong ISU defensive effort with four quarterback sacks and two additional solo tackles, as he helped the Redbird defense stifle the offensive unit for much of the first half of the scrimmage. Blow was the leading rusher, as he ran for 116 yards on 10 tries, including a long of 69 yards. Clifton Gordon finished with 73 yards rushing, while Mendenhall added 64 yards on the ground.
The scrimmage started with the Illinois State defense overpowering the Redbird offense, as ISU's offensive unit was unable to score on its first four drives. Highlighting the defensive effort was an interception of a Drew Kiel pass by safety Tom Nelson. Overall, the ISU defense stopped the offensive unit on five of the first six series.
Following a sluggish offensive start, Blow got ISU on the board with a 69-yard touchdown run off a handoff from Kevin Brockway during the projected starting quarterback's third offensive series of the scrimmage.
Junior transfer kicker Zach Kutch added to the score later in the first half when he booted a 35-yard field goal that just scraped over the uprights.
The Redbird offense got past the defense again on the next series, when transfer running back Mendenhall broke free from a pair of defenders on a handoff from redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Kiel and ran the ball into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown run.
The first half ended on another defensive note, as defensive lineman Eric Brunner recorded a quarterback sack against Brockway for seven-yard loss for the offense.
With ISU beginning the second half in the Red Zone, the Redbird offense's first series stalled at the defense's 21-yard line. Kutch then came on again and nailed a 31-yard field goal that sailed through the middle of the uprights. Sophomore quarterback Preston Earl added to the score three plays later with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevett Mickle in the far left corner of the end zone.
After accumulating 99 rushing yards in the first half, Blow added to his huge night with a 13-yard touchdown run, as the Redbird offense continued to pound the defense in the Red Zone.
Later in the second half, the Redbirds went into a modified two-minute drill, with two minutes on the game clock, and the offense down by two, 23-21. After Kiel threw a 40-plus-yard pass up the middle to wide receiver Drew Kempe, the ISU offense stalled, as two false-start penalties hampered the drive, and the offensive unit was forced to go into another two-minute series.
The ISU defense stepped up once again later in the half when sophomore transfer cornerback E.J. Jones picked off a Matt Brown pass and ran it 22 yards to the offense's 8-yard line. With both sides playing under a simulated game situation, the ball was turned back over to the Redbird offense for a new series with a new quarterback under center.
Illinois State now has two weeks until it opens the 2008 season Saturday, Aug. 30 against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent Marshall in Huntington, W. Va. Kickoff against the Thundering Herd is slated for 3:30 p.m. CT.