On arguably the most beautiful Saturday to date in 2009, the Wake Forest football team gave their fans a treat, scrimmaging for an hour and a half at the Doc Martin Practice Facility. The Demon Deacons split themselves into two teams, Black versus White, with the first offense playing for the White team and the first defense playing as Black.
After three periods, the Black team (which featured the second team offense against the White's second defense) won 24-14, with touchdown runs from Brandon Pendergrass, Chris Givens, and Willie Dixon.
For the White team, Riley Skinner was 15 of 23 passing for 272 yards, hitting Jordan Williams four times for 70 yards and Ben Wooster three times for 76. The White team's two touchdowns came on runs from fullback Tommy Bohanon and running back Kevin Harris.
On defense Alex Frye and Tristan Dorty each had a total of six tackles. Frye also forced a fumble and had a sack. Mike Williams and Geoff Wissing each had interceptions, and Ramon Booi, Hunter Haynes, Joey Ehrmann, and Michael Carter each had sacks. The four quarterbacks combined were 27-40 passing, as the air attack generally outperformed the defensive secondary.
The offensive line did an excellent job in pass blocking, but had trouble opening holes for the running game. For the White offense Pendergrass did find a big hole for a 27 yard gain, but as a whole the White only netted 26 yards and 24 carries. The Black (second string) offense had a bit more success, gaining 176 yards on 23 carries, including one incredible run on an end around to Chris Givens who broke at least four tackles on the way to his 65 yard touchdown run.
Brandon Pendergrass also had an 18 yard run for the Black team (some players were "traded" throughout the game), and walk on running back Willie Dixon looked really impressive, running nine times for 40 yards. He seemed to making a bid to gain some playing time next fall.
With Shane Popham out due to a left knee injury (he is expected to be healthy in no more than a month) new kicker Cline Beam handled all kicking duties, going 5-5 on extra points and hitting a 24 yard field goal.
The White team should have had another touchdown on a 38 yard catch by Ben Wooster, but was squelched when he fumbled on the one yard line and Dominique Midgett recovered it in the endzone for a touchback.
The game featured its fair share of big plays, bit hits, and impressive performances, but also displayed some of the rust and mistakes you expect from a spring game. There were a handful of false starts, a blown snap, some holding penalties, and the like, but nothing that isn't fixable.
Riley Skinner looked good as the first string quarterback. Skylar Jones played better than he has played all spring, and Ryan McManus showed by Jim Grobe refuses to name anyone else the second string quarterback at this time. Brandon Pendergrass ran like he did last spring, and the team generally looked comfortable in their new I formation.
On the defensive side of the ball, the lineman and linebackers did an excellent job in run defense, and even though the secondary did not look great, there is clearly a lot of young talent ready to make contributions. Given the injuries to key players like Boo Robinson, the young defensive line acquitted itself well. Ramoon Booi had a tackle for loss; Tristan Dorty had two of his six tackles behind the line, and Michael Carter had two tackles with one for loss.
All in all it was a successful day and obviously a lot of fun for the fans. Everyone enjoyed meeting with players on the field afterwards (most of them seeking Riley Skinner autographs) and seemed to have an excellent time. Now begins the hard part of the year: the three and a half month lull before practice starts up again in August. With the progress made this spring, there is no reason not to be excited about the prospects for 2009.