MACOMB, Ill. – Western Illinois ended the first spring practice season under new head coach Bob Nielson on Friday night with a 60-play scrimmage at Hanson Field.
The Fighting Leathernecks worked out for nearly 90 minutes in the annual Bruce Craddock Memorial Spring Scrimmage. Nearly 1,000 were in attendance for the 15th and final spring practice.
The offense started at various field positions on both sides of the 50-yard line, including deep in its own territory and on the opponents’ 30 to simulate redzone situations.
Redshirt-freshman Nathan Knuffman started the scoring with a 32-yard field goal, capping a 16-play drive that covered 75 yards.
Later, sophomore quarterback Hayden Northern found redshirt-freshman tight end Scott Simpson in the back of the endzone for a 2-yard touchdown, ending a 7-play drive. Sophomore running back Trent Snyder eventually scored from two yards out on a 6-play drive. Knuffman converted both extra point attempts as each scoring drive covered 30 yards.
Nikko Watson led the ground game with 49 yards on 12 attempts. Snyder, who played wide receiver last year, finished with 25 yards on six attempts with his TD.
Snyder also led the offense, wearing white jerseys in the scrimmage, with three receptions totaling 16 yards. Senior Kyle Robiskie caught two passes for 47 yards. Four other Leathernecks caught two passes in the scrimmage: Taylor Hill (26 yds), Kareem Adewole (22 yds), Simpson (19 yds) and Quenton Keating (13 yds). In fact, nine different Leathernecks caught a pass.
Northern finished 10-of-21 passing for 58 yards and the TD. J’Vaughn Williams completed 6-of-13 passes for 85 yards.
“I think we showed today that we’ve made improvements, certainly we’re a much better team now than we were 14 or 15 practices ago. There’s some things that I thought were good tonight, but obviously we have a lot of work to do yet. We have to get a lot better,” said Nielson. “You talk about taking steps… and I think we showed that we have taken the first of many steps that we have to take forward.”
Defensively, senior All-Missouri Valley Football Conference returner Ryan Demming recovered a fumble early in the scrimmage and blocked a field goal attempt while making two tackles.
Sophomore Dave Nicholson led the defense with six tackles. Junior Martinez Davis (Second Team All-MVFC), senior Devon Butler and junior Jeremy Curry had five tackles each. David McDaniel (Honorable Mention All-MVFC), senior Ethan Bachinski and sophomore Kevin Estell had four tackles each.
McDaniel and Nicholson each had a pass break-up. Demming, Butler, and Jean-Marc Charles recorded a sack, and Bachinski and Chip Holtschlag shared on a sack.
“I’ve been very pleased with the defense all spring camp. We’re very multiple. There were a couple of guys that didn’t scrimmage who will be big difference makers for us (J.J. Raffelson and Eddy Holtschlag), but they’ll be back in the fall at 100 percent,” said Nielson. “I think we have a good chance of being a very good defensive football team, and hopefully by being better offensively we will also make ourselves better defensively.”
Western opens its 2013 season right back at Hanson Field on Thursday night, August 29th, against Hampton. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Season tickets are currently on sale by going online at www.GoLeathernecks.com or by calling (309) 298-1190.
Knuffman 32 FG (16 plays/75 yards)
Simpson 2 pass from Northern, Knuffman PAT (7 plays/30 yards)
Snyder 2 yard run, Knuffman PAT (6 plays/30 yards)
RUSHING: Watson 12-49; McCartney 1-6; Snyder 6-25, TD; Williams 7-(-)9.
PASSING: Northern 21-10-0, 58, TD; Williams 13-6-0, 85.
RECEIVING: Snyder 3-16; Robiskie 2-47; Hill 2-26; Simpson 2-19, TD; Adewole 2-22; Keating 2-13; Salomon 1-0; M.Johnson 1-4; Watson 1-3.
TACKLES: Nicholson 6; Curry 5; Davis 5; Butler 5; Estell 4; McDaniel 4; Bachinski 4; Kintzel 3; Ford 2, Charles 2; Dubois 2; Demming 2; C. Holtschlag 2; Venegoni 2; Sessions 1; Rollins 1; Ventrella 1; Humbles 1; J. Johnson 1; Whitaker 1.