The Northeastern A&M Golden Norsemen looked solid on both sides of the football during a scrimmage Sunday night on the NEO practice field.
"Too bad we don’t have an artificial surface on Robertson Field so we could have gone longer under the lights," head coach Dale Patterson said. "But, we had an excellent crowd anyway and we didn’t damage the grass surface at the stadium. With as much activity as we’ll have on that field in the next couple of months, it’s a battle to keep grass viable enough to handle the traffic."
Three separate units on both offense and defense executed approximately 100 plays during the 90 minute scrimmage.
"Overall, I was very pleased with the way we played on both sides of the ball," Patterson said. "I even got to talk to the officials and they thought we looked really good. They only threw a few flags and they said they called everything."
Under the direction of sophomore Clayton Mitchem (6-2, 180 from Spiro), the first string offense scored on three of four offensive possessions.
Mitchem threw touchdown passes of 15-, 80- and 25-yards after the opening 80-yard series stalled at the opposition’s 10-yard line.
Freshman placekicker Kevin King (5-10, 165 from Jenks) booted a 25-yard field goal to conclude the opening drive.
"We’ve really stressed thus far to minimize our turnovers and we only had two picks and no fumbles the entire scrimmage," Patterson said. "We had a good mix of run and pass and we moved the ball.
"I also thought our game management was good," Patterson said. "We did a great job of getting players on and off the field on both offense and defense.
"We want to play fast and I thought all three teams did that," Patterson said. "Our offense came out and played well even though they started strong and bogged down at the end of that first series.
"They’ve got to learn that in this league, you’ve got to finish," Patterson said. "If you don’t, it could cost you the game."
Mitchem found a wide receiver wide open streaking down the right sideline for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first team’s second series. He later misfired on a potential 40-yard TD pass with the receiver coming wide open across the middle of the field.
"Clayton’s still learning because he only started five games last year," Patterson said. "He’s still developing with every snap."
Sophomore tailback Gerald Howse (6-2, 220 from Murfreesboro, Tenn.), freshman running back Casey Curtis (5-9, 185 from Putnam City) and freshman tight ends Hank Lowe ( 6-6, 235 from Tulsa Kelley) and Troy Davis (6-4, 215 from Edmond North) were held out of the scrimmage for health reasons.
"I was pleased with the way we played as a whole," defensive coordinator James Cheatham said. "But, we gave up two very long touchdown passes that is unacceptable.
"We’ve got to get more mentally focused," Cheatham said. "We can’t give up the big play even though some of that can be expected right now because we’re so inexperienced in the secondary.
"They are starting to figure out when to break on the ball and we did have two interceptions and could have returned one for a touchdown," Cheatham said. "We were able to play fast, fast, fast and came up with 10 quarterback sacks by our D-line.
"Not only were our linemen being very aggressive, but we’re incorporating a lot more zone blitzes and slants which gets them into the backfield quicker," Cheatham said. "Because we’re a little bit smaller, we’re using our speed and quickness to try and give us an advantage."
Freshman quarterback Kason Key (6-4, 215 from Owasso) guided the second team to a score which culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass.
Guiding the third team to a 40-yard touchdown drive, freshman quarterback Tony Kiefer (5-11, 180 from McAlester) connected on a 16-yard pass play on their fourth series.
"Our defense overcame the adversity of having two busted plays for touchdowns early in the scrimmage and finished with a lot of emotion and determination.
"Another aspect that I was pleased with was our execution in the two-minute drill," Patterson said. "They did a good job of kicking a couple of field goals and even though we misfired on a couple of extra points, our kicking game is much improved over last year."
The Golden Norsemen spent Monday reviewing film from the scrimmage before starting pregame preparation Tuesday for the Sept. 1 season opener against Highland, Kan., at 7 p.m. on Robertson Field.
"We’ll come up with our top 22 players on both sides of the ball and they will get the majority of the snaps from here on out," Patterson said. "We’ll limit the reps for everybody else."