by Trygve Jensen, Drake Athletic Communications Paul F. Morrison Student Fellow
DES MOINES, Iowa–-The Drake football team held its annual Blue vs. White scrimmage Saturday at Drake Stadium, and the Blue team, the offense, came away with a 38-22 victory.
The scoring format allows for the defense to score points for stops on downs, turnovers and defensive touchdowns, while the offense scores via a combination of traditional and unique scoring elements. The offense registered two touchdowns and the defense registered one turnover on an interception by Brad Duwe (Dubuque, Iowa).
“What I’m thankful for is there were no serious injuries,” said head coach Chris Creighton. “As a head coach, every single play, it’s our team out there. I can look at every play and say that a good thing happened, or every play see a bad thing happen. It’s never as bad as you think, and it’s probably never as good as you think.”
A mix of experienced and new offensive weapons compiled a potent attack for the defending Pioneer Football League champions. Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski (Wheaton, Ill.) led the offense on its first possession, an 11-play, 68-yard drive in which he went 4-of-5 for 44 yards, plus a 12-yard rush to get the ball to the 10 yard line. Piatkowski hit fellow senior tight-end Kevin Marshall (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) twice to extend the drive. Marshall led the team in receptions, five, and yards, 46, on the game.
The defense this season is under new leadership, as coordinator Brad McCaslin coached in his first game at Drake. McCaslin is the former defensive coordinator/associate head coach at Nebraska-Omaha, where he spent 14 years.
“I love our team right now,” Creighton added. “I love our program. We’re in a really, really good spot. We’ve hired some new coaches, and the transition has gone as well as possible. We’re going to have to come out hungry next year and execute, but I think our guys will be able to achieve everything they want to achieve.”
Redshirt freshman Stephen Covalt was the most effective quarterback on the afternoon. The Crystal Lake, Ill., native completed his first 10 passes for 103 yards. He led his unit to eight first downs.
Newcomer T.J. James (Des Moines, Iowa), a Des Moines Lincoln product and transfer from Ellsworth Community College, led the team in rushing with eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown. He was one of three running backs to punch in a short-yardage touchdown.
Junior Alec Recker (Des Moines, Iowa) had four catches for 44 yards, as did redshirt-freshman J.T. Teague (Carrolton, Texas) for 42 yards.
Piatkowski is returning for what will be his fourth year as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. Last year he was honored with the PFL Offensive Player of the Year award, earning first-team all-PFL honors and setting a school record for single-season completion percentage, at 65.3 percent. He is just 942 yards shy of Drake’s all-time passing leader, Ira Vandever (7,868; 1999-2002) heading into the season.
At halftime the Bulldogs' 2011 seniors were presented with their PFL championship rings, earned with last fall's 7-1 conference record and tie for first place with San Diego. Former captain Michael Lahart spoke to the crowd during the ceremony.
“We talked with (this year's) fifth-year seniors about whether we were going to wear them for a while and then put them away for next year,” Creighton shared. “I thought I was going to challenge them with that, but basically the response was, ‘Hey, we’re going to enjoy these rings but they will have absolutely nothing to do with our motivation for next year in a negative way.’ For four years we’ve talked about “rings,” not “a ring,” while they’ve been here, so I don’t think you’re going to see anything but a real determined team next year.”
The Bulldogs return 12 starters from last year's record setting team, six on offense and six on defense, but gelled well on the field throughout the afternoon. Overall Creighton emphasized the family atmosphere found throughout the program.
"Last year, after the Africa trip and then winning a championship, the thing that our guys say is the best thing about program is that we're a family, and I would never want that to change," Creighton said.
Drake will open the 2012 campaign on August 30 against Grand View. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Drake Stadium.