Former ASH star T.J. Johnson’s 64-yard TD highlights NSU’s second scrimmage

Former ASH star T.J. Johnson’s 64-yard TD highlights NSU’s second scrimmage
Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 8:06 PM CDT
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NATCHITOCHES, La. (KALB) - Second scrimmage, similar verse.

For the second time in as many Saturdays, all three phases of the Northwestern State football team had their shining moments in an intrasquad scrimmage. The most noticeable difference was the order in which they happened.

A week after allowing two early touchdowns, the Purple Swarm defense fired the opening salvo at Turpin Stadium, starting the nearly 100-play scrimmage with three straight three-and-outs.

Eventually, the NSU offense found its footing and delivered a handful of explosive plays as the sides took turns holding the momentum in the two-hour workout.

“It’s something we’ve talked about and seen in fall camp,” sixth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “The defense came out ready to play and forced a punt on the first five possessions before the No. 1 offense had a long touchdown drive. It was good to see offense bounce back. Then you saw the defense fight back, especially in the red-zone situations.”

Each side performed well with its back to the wall.

The Purple Swarm denied the offense in both red zone attempts, keeping them off the scoreboard. The second stop came after the offense had a second-and-goal at the 2.

“Just make plays,” defensive end Trevion Sneed said of the red-zone stop and a key sack he had in the first two-minute drill. “Keep backing them up. The more you back them up, the more hype you get. You know you’ve got them. The moment you relax, that’s when they start to drive.”

After tallying just one score – a 2-yard touchdown from Tyler Vander Waal to tight end Sylvester “Pete” Campbell – 10 possessions, the Demon offense proved it could operate with its back to the wall as well.

Faced with a first-and-10 from its 2-yard line situation, the Demon offense collected consecutive chunk-play touchdowns.

The first was Darius Boone’s 43-yard touchdown run that capped a three-play drive – one that included a 55-yard, second-down pass from Vander Waal to Twon Hines.

“This camp, there’s been a lot of adversity,” said Boone, one of three running backs who rushed for at least 40 yards Saturday. “Some days we have good days. Some days (the defense) has better days. This camp has been a battle. Both the offense and defense have made changes to do what’s best for us.”

While the NSU defense produced six tackles for loss and five sacks, the Demon offense found its share of big plays.

NSU’s third touchdown was a 64-yard connection between senior transfer quarterback Quaterius Hawkins and redshirt freshman receiver TJ Johnson that capped a seven-play, 98-yard march.

Johnson finished with a scrimmage-best 84 receiving yards on four catches, and his scoring catch was one of four passing plays of at least 30 yards in the scrimmage.

“First year, I was learning the playbook,” said Johnson, a product of Alexandria Senior High. “This year, I feel more comfortable, ready to play faster and at a higher level.”

That feeling permeated all three phases for the Demons, who ended the scrimmage on a high note as Brett Money drilled a 49-yard field goal to cap the final two-minute drill.

“We’ve done a good job of being one team, one family – just looking out for each other on and off the field,” defensive end Ty Ely said. “You’re seeing that as we get closer and closer to Week 1.”

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