Cove senior QB Smith, senior receiver Connell finding chemistry in passing game
By TJ MAXWELL
The Copperas Cove offense needed a spark and some confidence after being held to just 155 total yards against the top 20-ranked (Class 5A) A&M Consolidated Tigers on opening night that left the Dawgs in last place offensively out of the seven District 8-6A squads.
Friday’s home opener against Monterrey, Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL) started out very similar but ended vastly different as senior quarterback Jaylen Smith and senior two-way player Floyd Connell found their rhythm in the passing game.
The Bulldawgs were able to move the ball between the 20s early on but just couldn’t get points on the board in the early going.
A 33-yard drive on the Bulldawgs second possession nearly earned the Dawgs some points but the 25-yard field goal attempt by senior Antonio Mutt just missed its target.
A strong defensive stand got the ball back for Cove at the midfield stripe and that’s when Smith and Connell went to work.
“It was communication I think,” Connell said about the offense finding its stride. “The (offensive) line was talking to each other and the receivers were making their blocks. We went in and made some adjustments at halftime and it worked out.”
Smith ran for seven yards and connected with senior Bryce Ranes for 11 yards and a first down before finding Connell with nine-yard pass and a 19-yard touchdown pass three plays later.
Smith involved another slot receiver, senior Kaleb Hontz, on the Bulldawgs’ next possession with a pair of 12-yard receptions before again targeting Connell for 15 yards and a first-down inside the five before finding him again for the four-yard scoring pitch and catch.
Smith and Connell again helped the Dawgs drive down field with passes of eight and 12 yards and were helped along by a personal foul call against the Tigres before senior Myles Alexander capped the drive with a 14 yard run to the one-yard line and a one-yard plunge for the score.
Smith and Connell again led the Dawgs down the field with connections of 16, 10, 20 and 11 yards before Smith found Hontz for a 19-yard scoring play that put the Dawgs in full control, 28-7, with 6:12 left in the contest.
“We knew coming into this game that they were going to be blitzing a lot and that we wouldn’t be able to run the ball a lot,” said Smith. “So having our passing offense work really well got them to back up. Then we were able to run the ball and mix up our game plan.
“Their defense was quick. They were big, strong, and fast but our offense took advantage of that and we made smart plays today.”
Smith finished 20 for 30 passing for 236 yards and three touchdowns and found Connell 12 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Dawgs offense.
Head coach Jack Welch likes what he saw from his first-year starter.
“I thought Jaylen started coming into his own and getting more mature and at ease with himself,” he said. “We did some scramble drills and the receivers are coming back for the ball.”
The performance moved Smith from fifth in the district passing to third with 38 completions on 58 attempts for 337 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions through two games.
“Jaylen is a good quarterback,” said Connell. “I think, this being his first time starting with the varsity, he just needed to mature a little bit but I think he’s maturing and I think he’s going to be a great quarterback in the district.”
Connell remained at the top of the district in receiving after taking the top spot last week with seven receptions for 66 yards and totaling 220 yards on two touchdowns on 19 catches through week two. Senior Bryce Ranes is also in the district’s top 10 receivers with eight catches for 62 yards.
“Floyd makes big things happen and Hontz had a great catch down there,” said Welch.
The Dawgs combined for 305 total yards of offense with 236 of those yards came from the air attack while 69 yards came from the run game, led by Alexander’s 37 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
The Dawgs (1-1) will get their next test Friday in Andrews again El Paso Franklin (1-1). The Cougars defeated Midland 48-22 and lost to Odessa Permian 42-14 last Friday.