Fall practice: day five

On Thursday the Cougars donned full pads for the first time of fall camp, and Coach Mendenhall said he felt it was important to let them go at it instead of holding them back. Meanwhile, the offense once again saw success, but this time it wasn't quarterback Jake Heaps doing the damage.

The Cougars were able to tackle for the first time on Thursday, and apparently it couldn't have come soon enough for the players.

"They're anxious to run into each other, and so sometimes that takes away a little bit of the execution in terms of adding some energy to it, but it was good," said Mendenhall. "I think our team likes to compete and they're maintaining that since the very beginning to today."

Maybe it was the lack of early whistles reserved for light-contact scrimmages, but the running game was working on Thursday. Bryan Kariya in particular had one big run that would have almost certainly been blown dead if they weren't going full-contact. Mendenhall had noted on Wednesday that the running game had struggled during the first three days of fall camp, but the past two days have seen a jump in rushing productivity.

Part of Thursday's scrimmage session, meanwhile, was reserved for blue zone work.

Scrimmage

Apparently Jake Heaps is human, as he completed just 1-of-3 passes for 9 yards. It was the first scrimmage in which he had more than one incompletion. Most notably, he recorded his first interception of any fall scrimmage so far. His pass was intended for J.J. Di Luigi downfield, but Heaps put too much air into the throw, allowing safety Daniel Sorensen to close in on the pass and get the turnover.

Or did he?

It's too bad there was no replay in use, as it was clear from this observer's viewpoint from the balcony overlooking the practice field that Sorensen actually dropped the pass as he hit the ground. However, none of the coaches could see that from their vantage points, and so the play stood and Heaps no longer has the opportunity to go all of fall camp without an interception during scrimmaging.

Riley Nelson went 3-for-3 for 39 yards on the subsequent drive, his lone drive of the scrimmage. He completed passes to Michael Alisa, Iona Pritchard, and finally a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Wilson.

Heaps' second drive started in the blue zone at the 20-yard line. Bryan Kariya got things going with the aforementioned 18-yard rush that would have been a touchdown had he not been tripped by a trailing defender, making him lose balance just shy of the goal line.

The defense did a good job of regrouping from there, as runs by Kariya and Joshua Quezada were stuffed. On third down, Heaps' pass intended for a receiver in the back of the end zone was tipped away by Uona Kaveinga.

James Lark also got a shot at leading the twos, with the drive also starting in the blue zone. His lone pass was a 13-yard touchdown to David Foote.

Foote also had three rushes for 15 yards, while Alisa had three rushes for 14 yards.

Notes

- Colby Jorgensen, whose shoulder was separated on Wednesday, had his arm in a sling on Thursday. Head trainer Kevin Morris said they are going to run some more tests on him.

- In addition to Richard Wilson, Marcus Mathews also returned to action on Thursday.

- With Brandon Ogletree being held out of scrimmaging after suffering a groin injury earlier this week, Aveni Leung-Wai took his spot with the ones.

- Justin Sorensen was successful on 6-of-7 field goals/PATs from various spots on the field. "I'll have to make some hard decisions when the ball gets to about the 35-yard line going in [regarding] what we do from there, ‘cause he looks like he's well within range at least at that point, and maybe even farther out," said Coach Mendenhall. "So I've got to get a great feel by the time we get to our first game of how consistent he is from there, and create enough situations to determine that."

- Mendenhall said they are at least a number of practices away from determining starters at both corner spots, as no one has really emerged as the player at either spot. Nevertheless, he noted that they do have capable players.

- With this being the first Thursday of fall camp, the Cougars resumed their Thursday's Heroes program by honoring a young boy and his family after practice. Afterwards, Mendenhall took the entire defense to the other end of the practice field to run conditioning drills. Once that concluded a while later and they all headed back, Mendenhall approached the boy, who was playing out on the field, and spent more time with him and his family. Kyle Van Noy also made it a point it visit with the child some more.

- As for those conditioning drills, the defensive players all had to drop down on the ground, leap back up, run and jump over a plastic garbage can, drop down and get back up again, and then jump up and touch the crossbar on some goalposts before getting back in line and doing it over and over again. They have spent a good amount of time doing this new routine after practices this fall. Mendenhall had previously noted that the best way to prepare for the humidity they'll play in at Ole Miss is to improve the players' conditioning. He had also said that he believes the humidity affects the defense more than the offense, and with Mendenhall being personally in charge of the defense, they are getting a good workout.


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