The 2022 Servpro First Responder Bowl featured two teams in the Memphis Tigers (6-6) and Utah State Aggies (6-6) trying to get over the .500 mark. Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan completed 20-of-29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns to earn game MVP honors.
Despite the outstanding performance, Henigan was quick to credit teammates after the game.
“We had a bunch of players make plays,” Henigan offered. “Jey (Jeyvon Ducker) had a long touchdown run, and a couple here and there. Preiskorn (Caden) had a touchdown, Eddie (Lewis) had a good over the shoulder catch, Joe (Joseph Scates) had one up the sideline. They were just getting open for me and, with enough time, we were having success.”
His deference should not take away from the sophomore’s two-year run as a starter for the Tigers. The former Denton Ryan High School (Tex.) standout earned the starting job as a true freshman and has not looked back. Through two seasons as a starter, he has completed 62-percent of his passes for 6,893 yards with 47 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
“I think the bounce back by Seth, who came out and played his tail off…kind of shows you the resilience that we’re all about,” Silverfield explained. “For me, that’s why it’s personal and I’m proud to be able to get a win today because of what it meant to those guys in the locker room.”
The 2022 Servpro First Responder Bowl trophy represents a game that started off in 2011 as the TicketCity Bowl before getting rebranded to the Heart of Dallas Bowl in 2013. Since 2018, the bowl has been named the First Responder Bowl.
Memphis OG Davion Carter gets into a battle with Utah State LB AJ Vongphachanh near the goal line. Vongphachanh led the Aggies with 101 tackles and finished second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss in 2022.
Memphis quarterback and First Responder Bowl MVP Seth Henigan (seen throwing the ball rolling right in the second quarter) threw for over 400 yards two times in 2022.
Utah State OLB Byron Vaughns turns the corner and pressures Memphis QB Seth Henigan on this second quarter touchdown pass to Eddie Lewis.
Memphis WR Eddie Lewis caught 42 passes for 615 yards and seven touchdowns in 2022. He also averaged 9.8 yards per punt return (TD) for the season.
Lewis (pictured running into the end zone) beat Utah State senior DB Ajani Carter on this touchdown catch. It was the first of two touchdown receptions for Lewis on the afternoon.
Memphis WR Joseph Scates attempts to make an acrobatic catch during this game. Scates averaged 22.9 yards per catch with four touchowns this season.
Memphis PK Chris Howard kicks a field goal during the second quarter of the game. Howard, a first-team All-AAC selection, made 21-of-24 field goal attempts in 2022.
Memphis sophomore defensive back Joel Williams picks off a pass in the end zone during the fourth quarter of the 2022 First Responder Bowl.
Senior linebacker Cincir Evans, pictured, holds up the 2022 Servpro First Responder Bowl trophy while being surrounded by teammates.
Utah State wide receiver/kickoff returner Savon Scarver’s foot speed and elusiveness have put him on a historic pace. Although he has returned just eight kickoffs in 2019, the Aggie speedster is averaging nearly 43.8 yards per kickoff return. As of press date, he is the all-time leader in career kickoff return average in the Mountain West Conference. He has several attributes that distinguish him in this phase of his game.
Since his insertion into the team’s kickoff return game back in 2017, Scarver has excelled on right returns that feature a double team. During this season (2017), the Aggies would occasionally double team the R4 (fourth man in from the outside-in) on the opposing team’s kickoff coverage unit (with their right tackle and right guard). One of the reasons he is effective on these types of returns surrounds his ability to swerve through traffic. His swivel hips allow him to stay on a north-south trek without losing speed. Many of these returns during that year featured a five-man front (left tackle, left guard, center, right guard and right tackle) on the Aggies kickoff return team (five men on the front line).
On this kickoff return against New Mexico State in the 2017 Arizona Bowl, Scarver’s balance and underrated core strength prevent him from losing speed as he navigates through traffic. Prior to any of that happening, however, it is his underrated ability to catch the ball coming forward that allows him to get on top of the kickoff return unit. Many of the all-time best kickoff returners gain one-to-two steps by creating a lean with their posture as they field the ball.
Scarver’s 101-yard kickoff return against Nevada on October 19, 2019 came out of a 4-2 kickoff return front (six-man front). Normally, many of these fronts feature four of the blockers in the six-man front aligned 10-to-12 yards from the ball. The two centers (right center and left center) normally align approximately 15-to-20 yards from the ball in-between the left guard and right guard. On this return, the Aggies front featured the two centers aligned 10 yards from the kickoff team with its left and right guards aligned in-between the tackles and centers.
This front allows the Aggies left tackle (37 Sam Lockett, 6’0 190, S-FR) and left guard (25 Jarrod Green, 5’11 180, CB-SOPH.) to execute a double team on the fourth man in from the right (Nevada’s L4 in their blocking designation). At that point, Scarver is asked to pop the return going to his left. As opposed to bouncing the return, he squeezed it back vertically off the block of the team’s right wing (47 Logan Lee, 6’4 245, TE-JR.) versus the third man in from the right side (Nevada’s L3). It took just one small swivel from Scarver to elude Nevada’s placekicker in the middle of the field. Once he did, the former Centennial HS (Nev.) prep level track star easily ran away from Nevada’s kickoff coverage unit en route to his 101-yard touchdown. The former 21.5-second 200-meter speedster once set a state record with a 37.8-second time in the 300-meter hurdles. He is not going to be caught once he reaches his top gear.
Areas of improvement
When we first saw Scarver back in 2017, we felt as if he had an opportunity to develop into a top-notch wide receiver prospect as well. While he can break down the cushion of unsuspecting defensive backs, he has not been totally reliable as a pass receiver. He let a quick slant carom off of his shoulder pads against LSU in the fourth quarter after beating Tigers senior cornerback Kristian Fulton off the line of scrimmage. A possession earlier, his speed varied on a post route and then he was unable to wrestle the ball away from LSU safety Grant Delpit.
Of quarterback Jordan Love’s three interceptions versus LSU, two were on targets to Scarver. On the first interception, he beat LSU cornerback Derek Stingley off the line of scrimmage on a fade pattern but Love underthrew the ball and Stingley picked it off. Overall, his physical ability shined on occasion against LSU’s cornerbacks but he wasted too much time at the line of scrimmage. Physical corners can deter his paths.
At this point, he has morphed into an elite return specialist by trade. For him to become a dual-threat in the true sense of the word, Scarver needs to return to his early season form. If so, he could help re-ignite Love’s draft stock over the last month of the season. The two should be on more of the same page in their third season together.
UPDATE: Scarver concluded his career ranked second all-time in Mountain West Conference history with a 28.7 yards per kickoff return average. Of his 80 kickoff returns, six went for touchdowns. In his time on offense, the former Aggie caught 49 passes for 715 yards (14.6 YPR) and four touchdowns.
The Michigan State Spartans turned in an impressive bounce back season in 2017. Mark Dantonio’s crew finished the season 10-3 after going 3-9 the previous season. With 19 starters returning from last year’s team, the Spartans could have an outside chance of sneaking into the College Football Playoff. They take on Utah State, Arizona State and Central Michigan in non-conference play and will take on Big Ten rivals Michigan and Ohio State at Spartan Stadium. Sandwiched in between the non-conference schedule are match-ups against the Wolverines and Buckeyes and a road contest versus Penn State. A good barometer for the Spartans in their 10-plus win seasons has been their ability to stop the run and run the ball. Last season, Michigan State finished seventh in the nation in yards allowed per game and averaged 167 rushing yards per game (63rd overall). Running back L.J. Scott (6’1, 229) enters his senior season as the team’s feature back and alongside quarterback Brian Lewerke (6’3, 212, Jr.), he will be tasked with carrying the offensive load. On defense, defensive tackle Raequan Williams (6’4, 300, Jr.) will be a run-stuffer. With a strong season, he could join other former Spartans defensive linemen William Gholston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Shilique Calhoun (Oakland Raiders) in the NFL.
Troy’s player to watch
Joe Bachie 6’2 233 LB-Junior
The junior was a stabilizing force for the Spartans defense after they lost LB Riley Bullough to the NFL in 2017. Bachie finished last season with 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions. Since Dantonio has come to Michigan State, he has been able to hang his hat on a middle linebacker to run the defense. If Bachie can turn in another productive season, he will join the ranks of Max Bullough, Riley Bullough and Darien Harris, all of whom have spent time in the NFL.
Game of the season
November 10th vs. Ohio State
As usual, the Buckeyes will field a team as competitive as anyone in the nation. If anyone has been able to compete with Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes it’s been Mark Dantonio. The Spartans coach holds a 2-4 record vs. Ohio State and is the only coach to beat Meyer in the Big Ten multiple times. In last year’s matchup, the Spartans lost to the Buckeyes, 48-3, in Columbus.
DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch:
Khari Willis 6’0 215 S-Senior
The Spartans have several senior prospects worth keeping an eye on in 2017. Perhaps none can help their NFL hopes more than Willis. Despite 2017 being his first year as a full-time starter, the former high school running back has blossomed into one of the Big Ten’s most active safeties. While he will occasionally overrun some tackles due to over-aggressiveness, he generally breaks hard on the ball in pursuit from the inside-out. On top of that, he demonstrated a sufficient ability to open-and-run with wide receivers when defending vertical concepts a season ago (see Western Michigan ’17). He’s had some slight durabilty hiccups, but the 2017 Honorable mention All-Big Ten safety is primed for an impact senior campaign.
The Spartans will run through the early part of their schedule with flying colors but Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a home loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in November, reminiscent of their 2014 season.