Defense steps up in UWA scrimmage

Published 9:03 am Monday, August 26, 2013

LIVINGSTON – It was a day for defense as the West Alabama football team finished week two of fall camp with a 90-minute scrimmage Saturday morning at Tiger Stadium.

“The defense had a lot more energy today and obviously played a lot better than the last scrimmage,” Tiger head coach Will Hall said. “We have made a lot of strides in the last week.”

UWA led the Gulf South Conference in total defense, rushing defense, passing defense and pass efficiency defense in 2012, but had struggled some in the early part of 2013 camp. Not Saturday.

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Coach Robert Henry’s bunch forced four turnovers, made numerous third down stops and recorded several big plays.

“We made improvements from the last few scrimmages. One thing for sure is we flew around and made a lot of good tackles today,” linebacker Fred Barnes said. “We are working to get where we should be, and with continued practice we will get better.

Preseason All-American cornerback Malcolm Butler, cornerback Steve Horton and linebacker Fred Barnes had interceptions, while several other defenders recorded tackles for loss and big hits.

“We executed and made big plays when they were supposed to be made,” defensive lineman Dereck Jordan said. “The coaches have been stressing all week about executing our assignments and we stepped up today.”

Four UWA quarterbacks completed 20-of-43 passes for 264 yards and eight ball carriers ran for 219 yards, but big defensive plays on third down, penalties and mental mistakes cost the offense long gains and scoring chances. Chad Toocheck led all receivers with six catches for 93 yards.

“I was disappointed with the number of false starts two weeks into camp. We have to get that eliminated,” Hall said. “We do have three starters on the offensive line who were out today and we were playing some young guys, but that’s no excuse. We had some false starts at receiver too. We have to get that fixed.”

Senior quarterback Gary Johnston, who completed 11-of-20 for 157 yards, but was picked off three times, didn’t mince words when it came to his assessment of the offensive performance.

“It wasn’t a Tiger football day. We were sluggish, we made mistakes, but we will watch film and fix it,” Johnston said. “It won’t happen again.

“False starts killed us, mental mishaps,” Johnston said. “It is not just one person. It is all of us on offense. I had nine incomplete passes and three interceptions. I have to get better and I am going to.”

West Alabama will take Sunday off and return to the practice field Monday evening following the 17th Annual UWA Kickoff Dinner, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Bell Conference Center.

UWA alumnus Wright Waters, the executive director of the Football Bowl Association, is the featured speaker. Head coaches and senior student-athletes from every UWA sport will be in attendance.

Tickets are $40 and will be available at the door.