MOUNT PLEASANT - The final practice of Central Michigan's fourth week of spring football drills was highlighted by a 60-play situational scrimmage Friday afternoon.
The Chippewas were on the practice field for a little more than 90 minutes, the final hour of which was spent in 11-on-11 scrimmage situations that saw the ball spotted in various down-and-distance situations and field positions.
"With as young of a football team as we are right now, it's important that we continue to simulate these situations as much as we can during the spring," said head coach Butch Jones. "A day like today is especially important for our young quarterbacks. I was pretty pleased with what I saw out here today, but we still have a lot of work to do during the time we have left this spring."
The first segment of the scrimmage saw the ball spotted at the offense's own 35-yard line. A 17-yard pass from Dan LeFevour to Paris Cotton and 21-yard run by LeFevour on back-to-back plays moved the ball into the defense's territory, but a sack by Sam Williams on third-and-10 ended the drive.
Cotton ran for a 38-yard gain on the second snap of the second drive to move the ball inside the red zone, and three plays later he scored on a 12-yard reception from Derek Rifenbury. Cotton made the reception in the left flat, shedded a tackle and out-ran a defender to the end zone.
The defense then forced a three-and-out before forcing the first of its three turnovers. The offense moved inside the 20 after starting at midfield, but on second down Chaz West cut in front of a receiver and intercepted a Rifenbury pass in the end zone.
The offense scored two touchdowns in three first-and-goal series that began at the 8-yard line. On the second possession, Rifenbury threw 6 yards to Reggie Brown before scoring on a 2-yard run, while Ryan Radcliff threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Jeremy Wilson on third-and-goal on the third possession. Wilson made the over-the-shoulder catch in the back corner of the end zone and tapped both of his feet in bounds as his momentum carried him out of the end zone.
The defense had the upper hand on a series of short-yardage plays in the middle of the field. On four consecutive third-and-1 plays, West recovered a fumbled handoff, Rifenbury ran for 5 yards and a first down, the defense forced an incompletion and a throw from Radcliff to David Blackburn was held to no gain.
The series of third-and-1 plays was followed by one fourth-and-1 play; Radcliff ran for 5 yards and a first down for the offense.
The defense was then put in a situation where it trailed by two points with less than three minutes remaining and had to force a stop. A 12-yard completion from Radcliff to Wilson on third-and-8 extended the drive for the offense, but the defense came up with the big play it needed on the following third down. A Radcliff pass was broken up and deflected by three different players before being intercepted by Sean Murnane, who was running back toward the play.
The final two series of the scrimmage saw the offense operating its two-minute drill from its own 35-yard line. Back-to-back completions from Radcliff to Wilson and Cotton moved the ball to the defense's 35-yard line. Radcliff then ran for 9 yards, and three carries by Cotton set up a 33-yard field goal by Andrew Aguila.
On the second two-minute drive, the offense was facing a fourth-and-4 from the defense's 49-yard line. Rifenbury was hit by Matt Berning as he released a pass that landed incomplete.
CMU returns to the practice field Tuesday morning. The spring game begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 and highlights a day full of free activities in and around Kelly/Shorts Stadium.