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WKU’s spring game format for this season included two roughly 45-minute periods with no game clock. The offense wore red and the defense wore white with quarterbacks and specialists in black jerseys.

The offense would start from a different yard line and hash in their own territory each drive and would be forced to reset after fourth down if not in field goal range. No official score or stats were kept in the scrimmage.

To start off, running back Adam Cofield gained three yards from the offense’s own 30 yard line. Quarterback Bailey Zappe hit receiver Malachi Corley for a first down on 3rd and 7.

Defensive tackle Darius Shipp created a knockdown interception thrown by Zappe to end the opening drive.

To begin the second series, running back CJ Jones picked up 28 yard gain on a swing route thrown by quarterback Drew Zaubi. The offense then exploded with a 30-yard touchdown carry by running back Jakairi Moses to cap off the second series.

“Just to see that we’re getting better every day, that’s the biggest thing,” Moses said. “We got a lot of work to put in, but we’ll be ready for fall.”

After a three and out on the third series from the offense, running back Noah Whittington scampered up the middle for a first down after consecutive positive carries. The defense then stepped things up with pressure on Zappe forcing a turnover on their own 40.

On the fifth drive linebacker Will Ignont came up with a long pass breakup to stall the offense’s momentum. The offense would not gain anymore on the drive forcing a reset of play.

The offense came out with a screen and gain of nine from Cofield to begin the sixth series of play, followed by a first down pass to tight end Dalvin Smith.

Zappe was sacked on the offense’s next snap, putting them back to their own 33 yard line. Zappe rebounded with a gain of 13 on an out-route to receiver Dayton Wade.

To end the drive, Zappe threw a pass into tight coverage, which was tipped twice and then intercepted by cornerback Beanie Bishop, who took it to the house for the defense’s first score of the scrimmage.

“We want to set the tone as a defense,” Bishop said. “One of our goals is to be a top defense in the country and we want to put that on display, so we try to have a mamba mentality.”

Freshman quarterback Darius Ocean came out for his first set of reps on the seventh drive of the scrimmage immediately hitting receiver Terence Taylor for a gain of 24 and a first down.

From their own 42 on 3rd and 14, the offense stalled as Ocean was sacked by defensive lineman Dante Walker to end the drive and force a reset.

To begin the eighth drive for the offense, things started out slow then Zappe hit receiver Daewood Davis for a gain of 15 and then a gain of 12 on the next play to give the Hilltopper offense two first downs. Then on the next two plays Zappe hit Smith for two 10-plus yard gains to put the offense in defense territory.

Head coach Tyson Helton was pleased with the progress Smith showed today and hopes to include him in the offense more in the fall.

“Dalvin could play a big role in this offense. He’s very talented,” Helton said. “Both Dalvin and Josh (Simon) could play a large part in this offense.”

On 3rd and 13 from the defense’s 34 yard line the defense would force a sack, putting an end to Zappe’s solid drive and forcing another reset.

The ninth drive would mark the last series for the first period of play as Zaubi hit receiver Rony Bourdeau for a first down to start things off. The WKU defense would come up strong to finish the first period and force a reset.

At the intermission the offense had one score and the defense had one score. Zappe received majority of the snaps at quarterback.

To begin the second period of play, Zappe would throw his second tipped pass interception which was caught by cornerback TJ Springer who took it in for another pick-six for the defense.

Helton stayed positive on his new quarterback although he was challenged by the defense today.

“Bailey’s got to do a good job of taking care of the football,” Helton said. “That was disappointing to see, but he’s had a fantastic spring and if you look at the full body of work, he’s done a really great job.”

On the ensuing series, Zappe would get back in rhythm hitting receivers Corley and Davis for back to back first downs to start the drive. Receiver Mitchell Tinsley would then catch his first pass of the day putting the offense on the defense’s side of the field and picking up another first down.

After an offensive holding call, Zappe then hit receiver Dayton Wade for a first down and then Wade again for a 30-yard touchdown pass on the right side of the field.

The following possession resulted in a three and out in favor of the defense. Opening up the fourth drive of the second period receiver Kyle McNamara gained 28 yards on a catch and run thrown from quarterback Grady Robison. Robison then showed off his mobility, scampering for a decent gain to put the offense in the red zone.

Helton has been pleased with the new additions like McNamara on offense making their presence known early.

“He’s another guy that I think did some really nice things today,” Helton said. “He keeps improving as we go on, so hopefully he’ll find a role for us.”

Robison would then hit Taylor twice, the second catch a diving grab in the back of the end zone for an eight-yard score.

The offense’s fifth drive of period two showed the youth of the offensive line as the big men up front had four false starts, forcing a reset and momentum swing to the defense.

Helton commented on why it was tough for the offense to gain consistency today.

“We had some false start penalties and obviously the turnovers…they were handcuffed a little bit too,” Helton said. “They were pretty much playing base offense today. They didn’t have a lot in their package.”

Ocean would open up the following drive with a 25 yard pass to receiver Terez Traynor. Ocean then hit Smith over the middle putting the offense in defense territory at the 35 yard line.

After a couple of short runs, kicker Brayden Narveson came on for a 41-yard field goal which went wide left and would force the offense to reset once again.

The second to last drive of the game saw Zappe get things going in the short game with completions to Corley and Cofield. Near midfield Zappe threw his fourth interception of the day to defensive back BJ Wagner who returned it to the offense’s 10 yard line.

Helton was thrilled with his defense’s effort in their first in-game action together.

“The defense obviously got the best of the offense,” Helton said. “It was good to see them get the turnovers and big plays and batted balls.”

On the final drive of the scrimmage defensive lineman Jacques Evans rushed Zaubi for a sack, followed by a pass interference call that would give the offense possesion at their own 42 yard line.

After the penalty, running back Jones caught a pass to get the offense into defense territory to keep the momentum going. On 2nd and 5, Zaubi hit McNamara on a corner-route running wide open for a 44 yard touchdown to wrap up the scrimmage.

Overall, it was good to see plays being made by new faces on both sides of the ball. Helton was nothing but positive in his overall assessment of how things went today.

“First of all, I really want to thank the fans,” Helton said. “Really good turnout today. It was great to have people back in the stands and feel a real football atmosphere out there.”

Helton says the players will get the month of May off as a break and then pick back up in June to go full force for the 2021 season.

“The next two weeks will be finish strong academically for our guys…us coaches will be game planning for our first three games throughout the month of May,” Helton said. “The guys come back June 1st and we get to have summer camp…We’ll get a little time off in July and then we get into fall camp. It’ll happen fast. It’ll be here quickly.”

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