CARBONDALE — Raphael Leonard's 97-yard touchdown catch from Tanner Hearn highlighted SIU's first scrimmage of the fall Saturday.
Leonard, a 6-foot-2 junior wide receiver from East Mississippi Community College, got behind cornerback ShawnTrez Spates at Saluki Stadium and caught Hearn's pass in stride down the right sideline. No one was able to catch up to Leonard after he hauled it in near the 45-yard line on the offense's seventh drive of the day.
Hearn, a third-year sophomore who is battling freshman Brandon George for the backup role behind Sam Straub, finished the day 4 of 10 passing for 134 yards, the touchdown to Leonard and one interception.
"I thought we moved the ball well," Hearn said. "We executed what we needed to execute, but we got a long ways to go."
Leonard caught two passes for 115 yards running with the backups. SIU's No. 1 offense struggled during the 65-play scrimmage, managing only 58 yards on 23 plays.
"With the twos, we were able to get the running game going a little bit, but then I thought the defense got some stops, got a turnover," SIU coach Nick Hill said. "Made a big goal-line stand against the ones, so, until we get in there and watch the film we don't know, but I don't think we're at the point, yet, to really just come out and scrimmage. It was a bunch of different situations."
Running back/kick returner D.J. Davis had the only rushing touchdown of the day, a 3-yard run on the second drive of the day, and true freshman E'Mare Hogan scored on a 25-yard pass from George. George, a true freshman that was the Oklahoma Gatorade player of the year at Jones High School, completed 6 of 12 passes for 98 yards.
Hill saw some significant progress from both his backup quarterbacks, he said.
"You're finally getting to the stage, and I've told him this, that we're confident. If he has to go into a game, it's not going to be, like, 'Tanner's going into a game.' He runs the offense. He's getting people lined up, and it's good to see," Hill said. "A lot of true freshmen, you just don't get a lot of reps in training camp, so, (George) has been thrown in the fire pretty quickly, and we realize there are going to be different mistakes with him, but he's a quick learner. The stage isn't too big for him."
Sophomore kicker Matt Sotiropoulos missed his first field goal attempt from 43 yards, but connected from 45, 32 and 34 yards.
The defense came up with three goal-line stands inside the 3-yard line late in the scrimmage, and defensive back Jefferson Vea intercepted Hearn for the only turnover. The defense had two three-and-outs and one four-and-out when the offense went for it on a fourth-and-7 from the 20-yard line.
SIU opened the scrimmage with drives from their own 25-yard line with all three quarterbacks before moving to more situational field positions. Starting quarterback Sam Straub led only one scoring drive, but was able to lead the No. 1 offense out of trouble from its own 3-yard line. After a 2-yard gain by Cameron Walter, Straub found tight end Jacob Varble just inside the left sideline for a 15-yard gain and a first down.
The drive ended when Walter came up short on a third-and-2 run from the 28-yard line.
SIU doesn't open the season until Sept. 9 against Mississippi Valley State.
The Salukis are scheduled to return to the practice field Sunday morning. SIU's next scrimmage is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19, from 6-8 p.m.