Scrimmage reveals key improvements

The Cougars scrimmaged on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in what was primarily a show of backups. Still, the offensive coaches got a look at a few key areas that had been a focus during this past week of practice.

Jake Heaps started off Saturday's scrimmage with a drive resulting in a touchdown.

"Our ones did a great job during that drive in our first series today," said Heaps. "I'm really proud of our guys and we're really coming together, and I really love where our offense is at in this point in time. I can't wait till we get Ross [Apo] back and I think it will only help our offense even more.

"The guys that are in now are doing great and making great plays. McKay [Jacobson] is doing a great job out there, and Cody [Hoffman] is doing great, and J.J. [Di Luigi] is also going great with the roles he's playing. J.D. [Falslev] is doing a great job in the slot and our tight ends are really coming together.

Up front, the offensive line did a much better job of picking up the stunts and blitzes Coach Mendenhall threw at them. This was a concern of Coach Doman earlier in the week and was something he wanted the offense to improve on.

"Our offensive line is really starting to tighten things up," Heaps said. "They're really becoming a cohesive unit and the chemistry is really good right now up front. Everybody on the line is doing a great job and I'm really pleased with how they've been able to improve on some of the things they've been working on.

The only sack of the day came from Ian Dulan against Alex Kuresa and the third-team unit, but overall the first-team and second-team offensive lines are becoming more solid.

"Coach Mendenhall has a great defense and is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football," said Heaps. "He brings a great defensive blitz scheme and it's tough for people to figure out what he's doing. Our offense took a couple of days to adjust to it and figure it out, but once we got through that, our offense has really tightened things up. I'm very happy with the path that we're on right now."

During this past week, one primary objective of Coach Doman was to increase the offense's third-down percentages. On Saturday, Heaps' precision passing did just that.

"Our goal is to lead the nation is third-down conversions and blue-zone scoring," Heaps said. "That's the goal that we have and in order to get to the blue zone we have to sustain drives and convert on third downs. That's key to a good offense and it's very deflating to a defense when you're able to convert on third downs. I think we did a good job with that overall today."

One characteristic missing from Saturday's action was the downfield passing game. Rather, the offense looked more surgical than an air raid attack.

"We have to continue to make sure we put ourselves in good third-down situations," Heaps said. "Once you get into third-and-long, your percentages go way down, so if you're third-and-long all day long it's not going to look pretty. But if you're able to consistently get yourself into third-and-medium and third-and-short situations, you're going to be much more successful."

After the first drive, Saturday's action was primarily handed off to the rest of the depth chart. With many various players receiving a chance to play, the objective was to see how well the second- and third-team units performed in regards to management.

"Your first two downs are critical, and so we wanted to go out there and set ourselves up for those third-down conversions," Heaps said. "We're having a fun time and doing a much better job of managing the situations. Our objective right now is to really be students of the game, and that's something that comes with maturity and understanding, and I think that part of the game is coming for us now."

Various players on offense were able to make plays on Saturday.

"Our twos and threes are doing a great job," Heaps said. "We still have some work to do, but they're going a great job. The depth we have on this team is phenomenal."

Next week the Cougars will begin transitioning from focusing on themselves to preparing for Ole Miss.

"Well, I've kind of been preparing for Ole Miss for a while now," Heaps said. "Ever since they were put on the schedule, I've taken peeks at them and watched some film."

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