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Second-Half Rally Leads Defense In Drake Football Spring Game

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: April 19, 2014
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DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University football team’s defense used a 20-0 rally during the second half of the Bulldogs’ annual spring game to defeat the offense, 70-39, Saturday afternoon at Drake Stadium.

The team was split into offensive and defensive squads in which the defense earned points for touchdowns, turnovers, stops and safeties. Meanwhile the offense could score via traditional means and was awarded a point for each first down and play of 20 or more yards. The contest consisted of four, eight-minute quarters with standard clock operation. The game was tied at half, 22-22, before the defense started racking up points in the second half to pull away with the win.

“It has been a very good spring and our defense really picked up the new defense very well,” said first-year Drake head coach Rick Fox. “They [the defense] forced us into turnovers today and have been doing that throughout the spring.”

Of the defense’s 70 points, 25 came via turnovers with Drew Ormseth (Lake in the Hills, Ill.), Bob Quilico, Jr. (Schaumburg, Ill.), Tony Petta (Frankfort, Ill.), and Kyrell Newell (Lakeville, Minn.) recording interceptions and Rory Driscoll (Kansas City, Mo.) earning a fumble.

“We have big expectations for those guys coming back after being the top ranked defense in the league last year,” Fox said. “There’s a lot of returners, but we’re still learning a new defense and they’re doing a great job.”

The Bulldogs return four all-Pioneer Football League players on defense under new defensive coordinator Todd Stepsis, including John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.), the team’s leading tackler in 2013, who helped lead a defense that recorded 15 stops on downs on Saturday to earn 45 points. Matt Acree (Shawnee, Kan.) Michael Vankat (Omaha, Neb.), Sean Conerty (Arlington Heights, Ill.), Tyler McKay (Heath Texas) and Jared Chance (Yukon, Okla.) as the Bulldogs’ front four asserted its usual level of pressure.

The defense took an early lead with two stops and an interception, but a trio of long plays helped the offense pull close. Those plays included a 26-yard run from Conley Wilkins (Overland Park, Kan.), a swing pass from quarterback Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) to Wilkins that went for 29-yards and a 31-yard toss to Eric Saubert (Hoffman Estates, Ill.). Saubert would later haul in a deflected pass on the 1-yard line to set up the offense’s first touchdown of the day, a 1-yard dive from A.J. Washington (St. Louis, Mo.) to help the offense tie the game at 22-22 at halftime.

“Our quarterbacks did a really nice job with the exception of the turnovers and the penalties that really hurt us because they kept taking us out of drives,” Fox said of the offense. “Andy’s been doing a fantastic job and Andrew Clifford and Cody Thibault have been doing a nice job coming along and we feel like we have a good group of quarterbacks.”

The offense kept that momentum early in the third quarter as running back T.J. James (Des Moines, Iowa), who missed all of 2013, took a screen pass off the right edge 42-yards for a touchdown thanks to the downfield blocking of the receivers and offensive line.

However, that spurt was quickly answered by the defense which rattled off five straight stops and an interception to put up 20 points and take a comfortable lead. The offense would adjust and get back in gear with three straight first downs in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t close the sizeable gap the defense had built.

The spring game marks the completion of the Bulldogs’ spring practices. The squad will resume offseason workouts for the remainder of the semester before rejoining with the start of preseason practice in August. The team opens its 2014 schedule on Aug. 30 against defending NAIA national champion and crosstown opponent Grand View at Drake Stadium.

“Our guys are hungry, last year was a frustration year for our guys and they’re hungry to get after it,” Fox said. “They’re going to get back here in August to start working on a conference championship.”

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