Offense and Defense Both Play Well in Scrimmage

Dominating offense or punishing defense? In an intra-squad scrimmage it's hard to say what a fan wishes for more. Optimism on one side of the ball can indicate troubles on the other. In today's Camp Tontozona's scrimmage, it appeared that the desired magical balance between offense and defense had been achieved to some extent. Thus, the maroon and gold faithful left the pines near Payson encouraged over the team's prospects.

If there was any doubt that quarterback Chad Christensen is a capable starter in Dirk Koetter's offense, the redshirt freshman did a good job exhibiting his skills and confidence. He was 6-14 for 103 yards, with 2 TD's, and 2 INT's. Christensen showed great mobility, and also did a good job running with the ball. However, his play that drew the most applauses was leveling All-American defensive end Terrell Suggs, after running back Cornell Candidate picked up a fumble. Christensen's was head and shoulders above his two backups. Andrew Walter was an unimpressive 7-17 for 61 yards and one INT. Andy Goodenough staked his claim for the #2 spot with a better showing than Walter, even though his accomplishments were against the third string players. He was 2-6 for 66 yards, with both of his passes going for TD's. Goodenough also showed good mobility.

Running Back Hakim Hill had another solid, but injury shorten, Tontozona scrimmage. Hill ran for 28 yards on six carries, including a 16-yard run. Michael Williams showed some flashes of brilliance with 24 yards on seven carries. Randy Hill recovered a botched snap by Kellen Bradley, and ran virtually untouched for an 80-yard score. He also added a two-point conversion. Overall, ASU's running attack wasn't able to muster much of a productive rhythm.

The majority of the offense's TD's came via the air, with several receivers having quality performances. Daryl Lightfoot led all receivers with 54 yards on 3 catches. The sophomore who also scored once, showed his trademark elusiveness and quickness on the field. Lightfoot's starting position foe, Justin Taplin caught only ball, but it went for a 30-yard score. Skyler Fulton continued his outstanding Tontozona performance with two catches for 48 yards and a score. Derek Hagan, another Camp T star, had his day in the sun with 41 yards on two catches, one of them going for a touchdown. Shaun McDonald was relatively quiet with one catch for 32 yards, but his lone reception was spectacular nonetheless. Terry Richardson had a big play that nearly went for a touchdown, until he was tripped with no defenders in front of him. Matt Miller probably struggled the most out of the bunch, but hung in for a couple tough catches.

Kicker Mike Barth hit all of his four field goals. Two of them were from 42 yards, and a couple from 55 yards. He actually slipped while making his second 55-yarder. With the leg strength he exhibited today, his kicks could have easily been made from 60 yards out. The punting game was a very pleasant surprise. Tim Parker booted several punts for over 40 yards. Brian Biang's, who slipped to #2 on the depth chart, faired pretty well in today's scrimmage.

With more than a handful of the top Sun Devil defensive backs sidelined by injuries, their replacements more than held their own. Cornerback Mike Davis Jr., who started the scrimmage, intercepted Christensen and broke up another pass. Joey Smith, who started at safety along with Patrick Wilson, intercepted the other Christensen pass. On that play tight end Mike Pinkard saved a TD by Smith, tackling him fairly close to the end zone. Safety J.W. Lucas intercepted Walter, and fellow safety Matt Fawley sacked the signal caller. In addition, Jason Shivers sacked Christensen.

The defensive line and linebackers did a good job containing the run, and rushing the quarterback. Nick Johnson, who started the scrimmage at defensive end, tackled Hakim Hill for a safety, and broke up a pass. Terrell Suggs, and linebacker Josh Amobi both had sacks. The quarterbacks were flushed out of the pocket several times by incoming defenders. The whole defense showed a vast improvement from last year in the tackling department.

Head Coach Dirk Koetteroffered these post-scrimmage comments:

(On his general impressions of the scrimmage): "I'll always probably see more negative than positive. We ran 87 plays, and had 12 procedural penalties, so we definitely have to clean that up. But that's to be expected playing live for the first time with officials. But we also have a game in less than two weeks, so that showed us that we have to spend more time on that. We turned it over too many times on offense. We kept in fairly simple on offense, because we had 7 out of our top 9 defensive backs out because of injury. All those young guys that played in the secondary did a good job under the circumstances. A guy like Mike Holloway didn't take any snaps on defense and played 40 plays. I read the report on Nebraska's first scrimmage, and I read the things Coach Solich said, and you could put my name instead of his and it would sound just the same…"(On Christensen's and Walter's play) "They both did OK. They did some good and bad things, but they're getting better. They're making progress. We'll have to clean up some stuff…"(On the defense's play) "Our D is playing well. Like I said with 7 of our top 9 defensive backs out, and Solomon Bates didn't go because of a groin…I have been happy with our defense all through out camp. We're tackling better and creating turnovers and all that showed up today…"

(On if he found playmakers in the scrimmage) "We have some guys that can make plays. McDonald, Lightfoot, Hagan, Hakim Hill all showed today that they could make plays. Randy Hill had a big day, and has been solid all camp. We have enough playmakers. We just have to be more consistent on offense…"(On what he was looking from his quarterbacks in the scrimmage) "Decision making and execution – knowing where to go with the ball, when and why. We did OK there. There's always something in a scrimmage that the quarterbacks can't control. When Terrell Suggs knocks a pass from behind on a screen play that could go for a touchdown, that's something a quarterback can't control…"

Quarterback Chad Christensen:

(On his play in the scrimmage) "I didn't think I played too bad. I made some good plays, some that were real close to being good, and some that never should have happened. It's gonna happen every game, and you just have to minimize the bad plays. I do have to adjust to the speed of the defenders. When I see a wide open receiver, I have to be aware if the person covering him isn't rushing me. A guy like Jason Shivers runs a 4.3-4.4, and he just came at me and sacked me (smile). It's a learning thing I have to adjust to real fast. But I'm more comfortable each day. Today being live was a different feeling, but I think we got real comfortable." (On the offense as a whole) "We did run a real vanilla offense today, but the last couple days we started to click better, but you couldn't tell from this scrimmage. We just have to minimize mistakes. We had a lot of chances at big plays we just missed. If we minimize that we'll be OK."

(On the offensive line's protection) "I thought overall they did a god job. We had a couple breakdowns here and there, but nothing that isn't expected. When you go up against Terrell Suggs, you know that he will get his. But I do think we did a good job picking up the defense. (On being nervous today) "We did have a little nerves to begin with, and showed on offense because we didn't have a good start. After a little while we settled down, we played better, and we got into the endzone." (On the rate of contact during the scrimmage): "There certain times where you shouldn't get hit so you can work on certain plays, but it's also good to mix it up and let the defensive ends go live and rush you. That allows you to get a lot of work in, and get all kinds of different looks."(On leveling Suggs)"I don't get too many chances to do it, so that was fun (smile)."

Running Back Hakim Hill:

(On his ankle injury): "The ankle will be all right. It will be fine way before the Nebraska game. We got a great training staff here and they'll get me all better... I'll try to do as much as I can the rest of camp. If it's just setting the ball for the huddles, then that's what I'll do. I will learn the offensive packages and the blitz pickups in the meantime…(On another fine performance by him at Camp T): "I like Camp T. It's a great place to me. It's the place where you get to first draw blood for the Football season. This is the place where the mesh and team unity comes. After that gets taken care of, we go play our season…"(On the starting battle position between him and Mike Williams): "Mike has his strong points and so do I. We both do things a little differently. We have different styles of running. But we're both productive in Coach Koetter's offense, and we both look to get a whole lot of playing time this year…(On finally getting to play after his redshirt year): "A lot of people said that I wouldn't have redshirted that year, but thank god I did. I'm stronger and faster. I know the offense better. Last year it would be a struggle – especially in the blocking game. I'm hungry to get out there against the Big Red Machine. We're looking to throw a wrench in it (smile). …" (On the meaning of playing Nebraska who recruited him heavily in high school): "After I came to ASU I really didn't give it much thought. I trust the coaches here a lot. A lot of coaches can come knock on your door, but I wanted to go to a college where I'll feel comfortable knocking on someone else's door. That's why I'm here at ASU and not Nebraska. But playing them is just one more game on a thirteen game schedule…"(On Christensen's play): "He's a great leader. He takes control of the offense, and he can get the ball down field. He can block real well too (eluding to block on Suggs)."

Linebacker Josh Amobi:

(On the linebacker's performance in camp): "We're pretty pleased. We had some young guys that came in. Jamar Williams has a lot of speed and reminds me of myself when I first came here, and Bart Hammit showed a lot of improvement from last year. Then we got the three seniors. We got a good mix of young and old. It should be pretty exciting…Us three seniors have to go out with a blaze of glory. There's no other way to go out (smile). I don't wanna remember my senior year in a bad way…(On carrying the momentum of his fine spring performance): "I got a lot of confidence from the spring practice. I don't feel the pressure to perform at that high level; because I know I didn't get slower or anything like that. So why can't I do what I did in spring? I'm still the same guy, and I can do the same things."

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