NEDERLAND — It’s kind of fitting that the scoreboard wasn’t working to keep time or the score during Nederland’s scrimmage Friday against West Orange-Stark at Bulldog Stadium. Nederland head coach Larry Neumann and his staff would probably rather dwell on individual pieces of the game, rather than looking at it for the sum of its parts.
The Bulldogs lost 14-7 to the Mustangs in a four-quarter scrimmage that had everything a real game might, except no live punts or kickoffs. The Mustangs scored the only TD of the first half when No. 20 picked off Nederland quarterback Carson Raines and returned it down the sidelines for the score.
Aaron Gautreaux put Nederland on the board in the fourth quarter, picking off WO-S’s backup quarterback and returning it 30 yards for a TD. Tanner Noel nailed the PAT.
But, the final score mattered less than what the Nederland staff saw out of many different phases.
“I think we’re going to look at the video and feel pretty motivated to do some things before we see Dayton,” Neumann said. “I don’t think we can feel too good about anything. It’s a scrimmage and it should motivate you to get better. We should be critical of everything, even if you did some things well.”
The biggest plus for the Bulldogs was their pass rush against WO-S quarterback Jimmy Salter. All four defensive linemen were able to get consistent pressure on the Mustang QB and stopped a few drives because of it. On one drive, Caleb Malveaux forced Salter inot an incompletion with pressure up the middle before Koby Couron hit him as he was throwing on the next play to end the drive.
On another series, it was De Shawn Washington who took center stage, flushing Salter from the pocket and into Couron’s face on one play and then slamming Salter to the ground as he was throwing on another.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Neumann said. “I wouldn’t even say I’m dissatisfied with them. We’re just going to look at everything and try to see where we can improve.”
Michael Shaw also looked good for the defense, as he moves over to take some snaps at cornerback this fall. He didn’t get to show much of usual playmaking self on offense, catching just one pass for 4 yards in the first half.
But, on defense, Shaw was involved in a couple of different tackles and made a great leaping interception on a ball near the end of the first half.
Offensively, it was a different story, as there were more areas to work on than positives. Quarterback Carson Raines found his receivers early and often, but in the first half, many times those passes ended up being dropped. Of his first seven pass attempts, five were incomplete and four of those were because the receiver dropped the pass.
One of those drops came on No. 20’s interception, as the ball pinged out of Seth Barrow’s hands and flew up and into 20’s arms. Barrow made up for it, though, making a couple great catches for first downs over the middle.
“We dropped some balls,” Neumann said. “If we catch them, we’re going to feel a little bit better about ourselves. It’s not just one thing, but we’re a little disappointed with our performance there.”
The running game was also a work in progress. Starting tailback Kendrick Hopkins couldn’t get free on many of his plays up the middle, as the interior of Nederland’s offensive line struggled to prevent penetration from the Mustang defensive front. The Bulldogs also had trouble holding onto the ball when they were running it. Nederland had four fumbles, but luckily only lost one.
Tempering that a bit, though, was a strong showing from fullback Marcus Barton in limited snaps. The sophomore is trying to win a starting job this fall and ripped off Nederland’s biggest offensive gain of the first half on a 27-yard run.
“I think the biggest thing tonight is we’ve got to stabilize our offensive line,” Neumann said. “We knew who we were playing. They play a little defense at West Orange and they looked like a typically good defense over there. Getting a test against that kind of speed and athleticism, it was important. We haven’t seen that much in practice, so they gave us some problems.”
Nederland will return to practice next week, but will only practice three times before Thursday’s final scrimmage at Dayton. The Bulldogs open the season at home on Aug. 31 against Crosby.