MEMPHIS, TENN. --- The Tigers held the 2009 Blue-Gray Game at Christian Brothers High School and a large crowd turned out to see the squad in action for the last time this spring. The rain held off for the entire scrimmage and for the autograph session that followed.
The defense, which had taken some criticism this spring, held the offense to under 300 yards, primarily with a solid showing against the run. The offense had just 19 yards rushing on 50 total carries, and the long run of the day was a 15-yard scamper by Lance Smith. Defensively, the squad had 19 tackles for loss, with a majority of those being on running plays.
"I thought we have had a productive spring," said head coach Tommy West. "I think the thing that you notice today is the difference in the speed. Defensively in particular, we are much faster than we have been. There were several plays made behind the line of scrimmage. I am pleased with the progress made defensively.
"Unfortunately, the progress made offensively was overshadowed today by the offensive line," continued West. "Today I thought we had a very unenthused offensive line and we had been better in the line this spring. We will get that solved in the offseason. I think some of it had to do with the play of the defensive line and the linebackers, but we struggled with the snaps and I thought our line was very unemotional."
Smith finished the day with 28 yards on eight carries while Darcel Johnson tallied 14 yards on two carries. T.J. Pitts and Greg Ray both totaled three carries with Pitts logging five yards and Ray recording seven yards. Pitts scored on the second series of the scrimmage off a five-yard run. Quarterback Brett Toney scored from the run on the 100th and final play of the game. The play was set up by a 59-yard completion from Toney to Marcus Rucker, who was named the Offensive MVP of the game.
Rucker led the offense with four receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown. He scored on the 77th play off a 12-yard toss from Arkelon Hall. Rucker also had back-to-back catches of 20 and 35 yards on the second series while Toney was in at quarterback. Carlos Singleton logged 42 yards and a touchdown on three receptions and Duke Calhoun tallied 40 yards on four receptions. Singleton's touchdown came off a 25-yard pass from Toney on the 40th play.
"I had been a little disappointed in Marcus Rucker this spring because he had a drop in just about every scrimmage we have had," said West. "He is exactly where Carlos Singleton was four years ago. If Marcus will get in the weight room and get strong where he can go up there and take balls away like Carlos can, he is going to be an outstanding wide receiver for us. You saw what he could do today catching the ball."
Toney finished the day with 134 yards passing and one touchdown. He completed five of his 12 attempts and was picked off by eventual Defensive MVP DeRon Furr, who dashed 54 yards for a touchdown. Hall completed 12 of 23 pass attempts for 120 yards and a touchdown, while Ingram was 3-of-10 for 11 yards and an interception. He was picked off midway through the scrimmage by Mitch Huelsing.
In addition to the interception return for a touchdown, Furr paced the defense with seven tackles, two of which were for lost yardage, and two pass breakups. He dropped Ingram for an 11-yard loss and also caught Curtis Steele for a six-yard loss. D.A. Griffin logged the only sack of the day when he dropped Hall for minus 11 yards late in the game. Other defensive highlights included three pass breakups by Bryan Wright, a forced fumble by Derrick Odom and a fumble recovery by Malcolm Jones off an errant snap. Jamon Hughes racked up some hits with 10 tackles, three of which were for lost yardage. Winston Bowens also had a solid day with eight stops, five of which were solo tackles.
"We were much more physical on defense today," said West. "I didn't think that our offensive line allowed us to be very physical today. We won't be able to line up and run the ball if we don't block better."
Kicker Matt Reagan scored nine points on the day with three PATs and two field goals. He hit field goals of 42 and 30 yards, and his only miss of the day was on his very first kick, which was a 52-yard attempt.