Turnovers, missed blocks and wrong cuts. That's what happened in the Red-White scrimmage before an estimated 3,200 fans Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Kyle Dickerson shed three tackles just past the line of scrimmage on a 23-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the day's lone touchdown. Otherwise, the defense dominated play on a blue bird afternoon.
Matt Jones threw two interceptions, one on a ball that was tipped a couple of times. De'Arrius Hward fumbled to end another promising march by the first offense. Robert Johnson also threw an interception to give the Hogs four for the day.
"It's always a little different when you put everyone in a game-like situations and that's why it was important to have a scrimmage like this," said Houston Nutt, the UA head coach. "The defense stepped up and took control today.
"Our offensive line has blocked well this spring and we haven't turned it over, but those two areas were disappointments today. We gave effort, but we were sloppy. You can't turn the ball over. Our offensive line did not come out the way we wanted and not the way we practiced."
The offensive line had dominated in middle drills earlier in spring practice, often working over the defensive front with a nasty intensity that encouraged coaches despite the fact that none had started a regular-season game.
"We had done well in middle drills," said Mike Markuson, offensive line coach. "Today we stopped ourselves. We'd have two guys miss a block, or a back make the wrong cut. On offense, you can't have nine doing it right. You have to have all 11.
"I don't want to talk about being young. That is not up for discussion. We don't even have that on the table for our guys to use as an excuse. We have to be productive. I want to see the film and see where the breakdowns came. I actually thought the second O-line did some good things and that's going to be interesting to see as far as how things go this next week.
"We moved Robert Felton to left guard at the end and he did some good things. He was out there when we went down the field a couple of times at the end. We hadn't worked Robert over there at left guard, but that might be something we look at a lot more. Everything is open and we definitely aren't at the final stage there (at left guard) as far as the starter."
James Johnson has worked with the first team at left guard after moving there from defensive tackle midway through last season. Felton has been the backup at right guard behind Gene Perry, but has drawn praise for his tough blocking.
Jones had not practiced in live situations since Tuesday since the team took Wednesday off and he missed to attend a class on Thursday. The team worked Friday, but only in shorts and not in 11-on-11 live situations.
"Matt was rusty," Nutt said. "But we knew he hadn't practice much. What he did do was make some nice checks and also he helped on the sideline with leadership. He's really done a nice job in that area and that's what we need the most from him right now."
Quarterback coach Roy Wittke said Jones was put in an unrealistic situation.
"Matt looked like a quarterback who had practiced three or four times and put in a setting that wasn't fair, but we knew that coming in and wanted to have him out here for the sake of the team," Wittke said. "The thing I saw was him trying to do too much, try to make plays when things weren't going well. He tried to do it all by himself sometimes and that's only natural.
"Matt knows he's the only starter back and knows this bunch needs him. But that's not the way we want to play in the fall. Matt wasn't anywhere near ready to play in a game situation. But that's the situation we put him in and he at least did try to compete. We know he'll be a different player in the fall."
Jones didn't make any excuses, giving credit to the defense.
"They were ready and were ahead of us today," Jones said. "Defense usually is ahead at this point in the spring. The offense has had better days this spring. I did think that Robert Johnson made some nice plays and got the first offense down there and in the end zone at the end. Carlos Ousley made some nice plays. I thought Ousley was the highlight today."
Wittke was pleased with some of the work from Johnson, but not everything.
"Robert passed his first test of the spring, but I wouldn't exactly say it was with flying colors," Wittke said. "He made some nice throws, but at the end he missed two good post-corner routes by our wide receivers. He's got to get that pass delivered. Those should have been touchdowns."
The first was a route by Carlos Ousley and the second was by Cedric Washington. Both had a nice separation when they made their cut to the corner of the end zone. Johnson threw it wide and out of bounds both times.
"I thought those were good routes," said James Shibest, wide receiver coach. "The one by Ousley was a beauty. He had a nice day and made some catches. Cedric's route was good, but he needs to drive to the post a litte more. He was kinda gliding and that's one of the little things that I talked about this week with him. We needed to get in a scrimmage like this so we can coach him on film."
The lack of productivity by the offense might have led Nutt to call for another major scrimmage next week. They'll go under the lights Wednesday night to get in another game-like scrimmage to end the spring. The team will meet on Sunday to review the film, and then return to the practice field on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to complete their 15 days of practices.
"We did some good things today," Nutt said. "There are positives. The defense played hard and flew to the ball. Guys like Jeb Huckeba (two sacks), Clarke Moore and Wes Murphy had good days. Jeb really showed up today. He's been at defensive end two years now and he is doing well there. He's really coming on. The effort was good by a lot of people.
"We are getting better and making improvement. The players are giving us great effort and they are listening. Are we there yet? No, but we are making strides every day.
"Robert Johnson is making improvement. He did some very good things. He's got great arm strength and he made some nice throws today. He's beginning to be a quarterback and that is some things that are hard to see like the way he's picking up things in the running game and in the huddle.
"Guys, Dedrick Poole is a talented, talented back and Kyle Dickerson is tough to bring down. He is not the speediest guy, but he's dependable, strong and tough. He's Mister Reliable for us."
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he had challenged his troops "to get four turnovers, so they reached the goal. I thought we played well. We really hadn't tackled to the ground hardly at all and I was worried about our tackling today, but it was pretty good for the most part. I liked the way Vickiel Vaughn played and thought we were lined up right. That's a positive with such a young secondary and we didn't let anyone behind us. So it was a good day for our side."
Jones was the starter at quarterback and played with the first team on every possession of the first half and the first series of the second half.
Jones was intercepted on the day's first play, an underthrown ball for Chris Baker on a deep post. Marcus Slaughter, a walkon cornerback, came back for the ball and picked it off at the 47-yard line on a play that started from the 10-yard line.
The second offense, with Johnson at the helm, took over at midfild and drove against the first defense to the 20-yard line before Johnson's pass for Colby Sanders was incomplete. Poole had gains of 26 and 9 yards on cutbacks on off-tackle plunges. Chris Balseiro bootd a 36-yard field goal through the heart of the up rights.
There would be no more scoring until the fourth quarter. The first offense made one first down (on a Jones keeper out of the shotgun) on the next series before failing on downs as De'Arrius Howard was stopped for no gain on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2.
The seconds went against the first unit and was three and out. Poole made just 1 yard on third-and-9.
Jones led the first team to three first downs against the second defense. But on third-and-4 from the plus 24, Jones tried to squeeze a pass between two defenders at the corner pylon, but Ousley tipped it and it eventually bounced into the hands of Dionis Harvey as he stepped out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
Johnson and the second team made two first downs against the top defense before he was intercepted on first-and-10 on a play from his own 49. He scrambled out of the pocket and tried to loft a deep pass to tight end Jonathon Berry, but linebacker Pierre Brown outfought him for the ball for the turnover.
Jones threw a short pass to Cedric Washington to get the first offense going on their next try. It was good for 14 yards and a face mask penalty added another 15 yards. Howard made 7 on a draw for another first down. Jones found Ousley for 6 yards and it appeared the starters would convert third-and-1 from the defense's 29 when Howard squirted through a big hole on the right side. However, he fumbled the ball down field and Kevin Woods scooped it and returned it to the 40-yard line before Jones slung him out of bounds. Jones was penalized for flinging Woods to the ground out of bounds.
There was only 1:01 left in the half, and with the clock on a continuous roll, there wasn't enough time for the second offense even with the ball at the 19-yard line after the penalty. Johnson was incomplete on the only play, a pass Lorienzo Robinson dropped after a perfect break.
Jones returned at quarterback to start the second half and led the starters to two first downs. He passed 9 yards to Birmingham nad 12 yards to Ousley for the two big plays. But on third and 4, he had no protection and had to back peddle 20 yards before finding Brandon Kennedy in the flats for a 3-yard loss.
That brought on both second teams. Rhett Lashlee was at quarterback and the offense went three and out.
Johnson then took over for Jones at quarterback with the first team. His unit went three and out whn he over threw Chris Baker on third-and 20. Huckeba's sack on a blitz and loop through the middle on first down doomed that possession.
The first team went three and out again on the final possession of the third quarter, again with Johnson at quarterback. Johnson was incomplete on third and 5 on a pass he threw high for Washington.
Lashlee was at quarterback as the seconds came up empty against the first defense to open the fourth quarter. Lashlee did complete a 6-yarder to Ousley, but Poole made only 4 on third-and-6 with Vickiel Vaughn closing nicely from safety for a solid tackle.
The starters returned against the second defense and marched 75 yards in nine plays for the day's first and only touchdown. Johnson put some air under a nice, tight spiral on a 12-yard out by Washington to start the march. He also found DeCori Birmingham on an 8-yard swing pass. Poole went around left end for 12. Johnson found Ousley for another 15, with more evidence of his nice touch.
On first and 10, Dickerson found no room on a sweep around right end. However, Reggie Banks, Blake Edwards and Anthony Gray all fell off of him in a cluster of defensive players just past the line of scrimmage and in front of the defensive coaches on the sideline. Dickerson scooted past all of them and into the end zone. It came with 6:33 on the game clock.
There was time for just one more full possession before the game clock expired. Lashlee and the seconds came up empty against the top defense.
However, Nutt decided to let play continue when time expired with the first offense on the move. Howard made 10 and Johnson found Baker for 30 to the 15-yard line as the last seconds ticked off the clock. It didn't matter when Johnson was incomplete on four straight passes, the last two on the post-corner routes that Shibest liked so well.
Nutt cleared the bench for one final series with a late hit on a quarterback scramble providing the only first down.
Red-White Scrimmage, 4/3
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