Day V - Saturday, January 6, 2001
Across the Rio Grande
Article Courtesy of Kent Partridge - BIRMINGHAM THUNDERBOLTS

ORLANDO - Crossing Rio Grande Ave. from McCracken Field to Thunder Field seemed to be just the wake up call the Birmingham Thunderbolts needed Saturday, or maybe it was because the Orlando Rage stood waiting across the border.

For an hour, Birmingham worked at McCracken Field, going through the motions without much enthusiasm. Then the clock struck 3 p.m. and the Bolts made their first road trip of training camp, walking across Rio Grande to meet the Rage in one-on-one, pass skeleton and team drills.

Sometimes a change of scenery makes all the difference, and according to Birmingham players, looking across the line of scrimmage at some different faces made a big difference.

"Our locker room was a lot more talkative today. This gave us an opportunity to see where we are," said receiver Quincy Jackson. "My adrenaline gets pumped up when we go against another team. I can do things against other team's defensive backs that I can't do against our own."

After a slow start in individual drills, the Thunderbolts came to life in team, 11-on-11 drills against the Rage. Quarterbacks Casey Weldon and Graham Leigh combined to complete 7 of 9 passes for 111 yards in the 20-play scrimmage. Weldon was 3 of 4 for 60 yards and Leigh 4 of 5 for 51 yards.

Five different receivers caught passes, led by Stepfret Williams with three catches for 42 yards. Steve Smith had one catch for 25 yards, Damon Gourdine one for 22, Joe Douglass one for 14 and Kevin Drake one for 8 yards.

"I thought we did all right," offensive coordinator Dave Arslanian said. "We can get better of course, but for the first time going against someone else I thought we did fine."

Led by defensive linemen Quinton Reese and Charles Preston, Birmingham's defense did not surrender a touchdown as the Rage offense ran 20 plays against them in team period. Defensive back Anthony Derricks capped off the day with an interception on Orlando's final play.

"I thought we really got better on defense. We were a lot more physical and ran to the ball well," defensive back Duane Butler said. "There were some people on our team who are a little laid back in practice who really turned it up today against another team."

"The intensity and enthusiasm was good. It was what we wanted," head coach Gerry DiNardo said. "Now we will watch the tape and adjust the technical part of it.

The Bolts are scheduled to practice twice Sunday.

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