CHARLESTON, S.C. - A sweltering day on the turf and a strong showing by the Blue Swarm defense highlighted the Charleston Southern football team's second scrimmage of fall camp on Thursday afternoon.
With the temperature reaching 96 degrees with a real feel of 116, the Bucs felt a taste of what the conditions could be like when CSU makes the trip to Starkville, Miss. for its September 2 season opener at Mississippi State.
The Buccaneers' defense again shined throughout the morning practice session despite several players sitting out due to precautionary reasons.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Eishaun Funnye was in the backfield a number of times throughout the practice session and led the way with a pair of sacks, while redshirt sophomore safety Demetri Royer returned an interception for a touchdown to pace the Bucs.
"We're definitely not afraid to get out there," Head Coach Mark Tucker said about the heat on Thursday morning. "We were short-handed defensively, so our younger kids stepped up and played well and fit well in our schemes, which is a reflection on their coaching. Our box fits were very good; we had a couple opportunities offensively to crease our defensive off their zone concept, but they adjusted well at the safety level and didn't let it get out."
Shane Bucenell led the lone offensive scoring drive on the day. Freshman Russell Montgomery kept the drive alive with a one-handed catch down the sideline to convert a key first down before Bucenell went in from 10 yards out on an option keeper to cap the offensive highlights from the day.
"We've got to improve our execution offensively," Tucker commented. "We're still in a learning process, but there's a lot of good things. We tried to simplify things and show some of our down and distance tendencies today. Our defense defended it well and made plays, but we did miss some plays that were out there too. We'll be ready to play when it's time."
The Bucs defense shut down the CSU offense on the first eight drives of the day with the Blue Swarm holding them to four three-and-outs during the span. Joey Maxberry, Solomon Brown, Funnye, Jacob Garibay, and Markeith Bailey all recorded sacks over the drives as the defense dictated the tempo early in the practice setting.
Royer stepped in front of a pass from Robert Mitchell on a post pattern down the middle of the field at the 37-yard line. The Clearwater, Fla. native returned it up the right sideline for a touchdown to headline the defense's early effort.
The offense took over on the ninth drive of the morning session with Bucenell going 22 yards on an option keeper on the first play. Adam Allen added a tough eight-yard pickup on a third down to keep the drive alive near the defense's 40-yard line.
Three plays later, Bucenell found Montgomery down the left sideline on third-and-long with Montgomery hauling in the one-handed catch to move the chains. Noah Shuler followed with a tough 12 yard pickup, breaking several tackles along the way before Bucenell scored to cap the drive and send the scrimmage into halftime.
Out of the break, the defense once again settled in by forcing four three-and-outs over the final eight drives. Saire Davis and Geoffrey Wall both turned receptions into first downs on drives before the defensive line took control and limited the CSU rushing attack to close out the session.
Following the second scrimmage, the Bucs now turn attention toward the September 2 date against Mississippi State. CSU will practice in shorts and helmets tomorrow afternoon in its final practice before classes start on Monday morning.
"We'll start getting ready for Mississippi State tomorrow," Tucker said. "Our players will be out helping the incoming freshmen and returning students move in tomorrow morning and then we'll get back on the field in the afternoon. We want our young men to be a part of the student body, so we'll have a short day tomorrow to let them take part in the campus activities this weekend."
The Bucs will hold their 2017 Media Day tomorrow afternoon with team picture, individual headshots, and other activities taking place on the field.