The White team scored twice in the second half, while holding Blue off the board, to capture its fourth-straight win, a 35-17 victory, in the annual Blue-White Spring Game Saturday at Floyd Stadium.
"It was a very entertaining spring game and a great day for Middle Tennessee football," said Head Coach Rick Stockstill. "I saw a lot of positives out there but we still have a lot of work to do. This is a solid beginning."
Dwight Dasher finished as the top passer for the winning White squad, completing 17-of-23 attempts for 144 yards and one interception. His counterpart, Blue starter Brent Burnette, connected on 18-of-27 for a game-high 157 yards and two touchdowns. The other three signal-callers to see action for both teams combined for 10-of-17 with one score but three picks.
Marquise Branton was the top ball carrier with 23 yards on seven attempts. Dasher and Phillip Tanner each added 21 yards on the ground for the White team. The Blue team was led by 20 yards on five rushes by Wesley Hale. D.D. Kyles had a game-high eight attempts for 19 yards.
A pair of White receivers topped the 50-yard mark, including Patrick Honeycutt tallying 72 yards on just five receptions. Chris McClover hauled in a game-high 10 passes for 69 yards and a score. Andrew Banks paced the Blue squad with seven catches, while Wes Caldwell led all players with 81 yards on only four receptions.
"There was a little more offense in the spring game this year and that is because we have better skill players and more experienced players overall," added Stockstill.
Jamari Lattimore had the top defensive day for the White squad, collecting eight solo stops, including four tackles for a loss of 22 yards and three sacks for a loss of 21 yards. He also had an interception, which he returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Cam Robinson and Denzell Guerra added seven tackles apiece for the White team.
The Blue team was led by a game-high 13 stops from Josh Gregory, including five solo tackles. He had one-and-a-half tackles for loss. Jawan Carson, Daniel Waller and Gorby Loreus each had five tackles for the Blue squad.
White took the opening drive into the endzone on a 2-yard touchdown run off the right tackle by Tanner to cap a nine-play, 65-yard drive covering 3:32. Tanner finished with five carries for 21 yards on the drive and did not see action the remainder of the game.
Blue did not advance the ball on its first possession. Burnette was sacked by Lattimore for a loss of nine yards on the opening play. Burnette's next pass was deflected by Norman Washington before the team was forced to punt.
The two teams then traded empty possessions with neither gaining much yardage.
Jeremy Kellem picked off Dasher's first pass of White's third possession at the White 46 and slashed through the defense for 31 yards down to the 15-yard line.
The Blue team then quickly converted it into a score, evening it at 7-7 on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Burnette to Gene Delle Donne on a four-play, 15-yard drive covering 56 seconds.
White started its next possession as the first quarter came to a close after a 20-yard pass from Dasher to Desmond Gee moved the team down to the 25-yard line. Two plays later, Dasher took the snap and went untouched for a 21-yard touchdown to put White ahead, 14-7, and cap a seven-play, 65-yard drive over 1:41.
Burnette, however, continued to march the Blue team down the field, finding the narrowest of seams at the goal line in connecting with Eldred King on a 4-yard touchdown toss to again knot the score, 14-14. Burnette went 6-of-7 for 65 yards on the drive, which lasted 3:15 on nine plays.
White responded with a long drive of its own, spanning 12 plays over 5:05 to score on a 3-yard Branton rush to move ahead, 21-14, with 4:14 remaining in the first half.
Blue closed the gap to 21-17 on a 47-yard field goal by Taylor Ports as the first-half clock expired.
In the second half, with the clock running continuously, neither team was able to mount much of an offensive attack until Blue's third possession. Quarterback Barry Cunningham began moving Blue down the field, connecting on a 35-yard pass across the middle to Caldwell.
Four plays later, Cunningham looked towards the sideline on fourth down only to be picked off by Sherman Neal at the six in what turned out to be a momentum changing play. Neal returned the interception 63 yards, taking it back to the Blue 31-yard line where he was tackled by Cunningham.
Nicholas Coleman came in at quarterback for the White squad and led the team the remaining 31 yards after finding McClover for a 5-yard touchdown pass 2:32 later to push the lead to 28-17 in the fourth quarter.
Lattimore continued his dominance on the defensive side of the ball for the White team, recording his third sack of the afternoon before picking Cunningham off at the 40-yard line and returning it all the way for a 35-17 advantage.
The White team has won all four of the games under head coach Rick Stockstill.
"We have to improve in every area and every position between now and September 5 but I like the improvement I have seen," said Stockstill following today's game. "Defensively we really have to concentrate on consistency at the linebacker position and on offense we need to get some guys back healthy on the offensive line."
2009 SPRING PRACTICE AWARDS
Most Improved QB: Dwight Dasher
Most Improved RB: D.D. Kyles
Most Improved WR: Chris McClover
Most Improved OL: Alex Stuart
Most Improved DL: Brandon Perry
Most Improved LB: Cam Robinson
Most Improved S: Kevin Brown
Most Improved CB: Jawan Carson
Most Improved Specialist: Alan Gendreau
Most Improved Strength Training - QB: Brent Burnette
Most Improved Strength Training - RB: Phillip Tanner
Most Improved Strength Training - WR: Sancho McDonald
Most Improved Strength Training - OL: Mark Fisher
Most Improved Strength Training - DL: Brandon Perry
Most Improved Strength Training - LB: Darin Davis
Most Improved Strength Training - S: Kevin Brown
Most Improved Strength Training - CB: Hakeem Johnson
Most Improved Strength Training - Specialist: Alan Gendreau
Jeanne Massaquoi Freshman Academic Award: Alex Stuart
Donald Craig Sophomore Academic Award: Jeremy Kellem
Dr. James E. Walker Junior Academic Award: Jamal Lewis
Dr. Sidney McPhee Senior Academic Award: David DeFatta
Terry Whiteside Award: Phillip Tanner (Excellence in academics, football, strength training, community
service, and campus activities)