RICHMOND – New Eastern Kentucky University football head coach Mark Elder held the team’s second scrimmage of preseason camp on Saturday.
“We wanted to get 80-plus plays in today of live, tackle football and we did that,” Elder said. “We saw a lot of guys starting to show up and some things coming together. There were also some really good teaching moments as well. There are some things we need to improve upon and those will be great teaching moments in the team meeting tonight. I was definitely encouraged with what happened today.”
Saturday’s scrimmage was divided into five segments with special teams work in between each segment.
The team ran six series in the first segment starting at the offense’s own 30 yard line. The defense kept the offense off the scoreboard for five of those series. On the final series, redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Swafford engineered a touchdown drive with the help of newcomer Henry Enyenihi. The transfer running back had two big runs on the drive, including a 12-yard scoring jolt along the right side to cap it off.
“This scrimmage and the last scrimmage are really the best days to evaluate guys,” Elder said. “It’s not coaches out on the field getting people lined up. It’s throwing them out there and playing football. That’s the best evaluation that we can have.”
The second segment focused on red-zone situations. On the first series, Kentayvus Hopkins scored on a four-yard run. The defense shined again on the next three series, preventing any more touchdowns.
The third segment backed the offense up against its own goal line. The offense put together a great drive on the third series. Freshman Daryl McCleskey Jr. gave the Colonels some breathing room with a 20-yard run to the 30 yard line. Moments later, Maty Mauk threw long down the right sideline and connected with Ryan Markush for a 55-yard touchdown pass.
“We are definitely getting into situational football at this point,” said Elder. “During the first week or so of camp, you’re just playing ball. Now we are getting more advanced – two-minute drills, short field/long field, four-minute scenarios, a lot of different things. If you’re going to play in close ball games, you need to play well in situations.”
The fourth and fifth segments were four-minute and two-minute drills. The four-minute drill had the offense up by seven and starting at its own 30 yard line. The two-minute drill had the offense down five and starting at its own 35 yard line. Mauk capped a scoring drive during the two-minute drill with a touchdown pass to Neiko Creamer with 40 seconds on the clock.
“We still have two weeks and we need every bit of that time to get ourselves ready,” said Elder. “I definitely feel like we are on track to where we should be.”
In addition to stopping the offense on several possessions, the defense picked off two passes. Thomas Owens had one interception when he made a spectacular dive to catch a tipped ball just before it hit the ground.
With classes starting on Monday, preseason camp officially ends with practice at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The final practice is scheduled to be held at Roy Kidd Stadium and is open to the public.
Eastern Kentucky will begin the 2016 season on Sept. 3 at Purdue. The team’s first home game is slated for Thursday, Sept. 8. For ticket information, contact the EKU Athletics Ticket Office at 859-622-2122.
EKU is ranked as high as No. 22 in the nation in preseason polls and was picked to place second in the Ohio Valley Conference this season by the coaches and the media.