Situational drills yield success

After an uncharacteristic performance during Monday's early practice, the offense came out with one focus: to execute Tuesday's overtime and blue zone situational drills with success. The offense was able to sustain drives and reach pay dirt under the leadership of sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps.

Whatever it was that plagued the Cougar offense on Monday vanished, and that's a good thing. The Cougar coaching staff placed the team in challenging situations to see how the players would perform, and, apparently, the team looked much different than what was fielded on Monday.

"We started executing better today back to where we were," J.J. Di Luigi said. "We really picked up our intensity and energy and looked like our old selves again, so I think what we went through was good because I think we learned something from that."

"Yesterday was one of those things where we just mentally checked out," Jake Heaps said. "At this point in the game, you don't want to do that. I mean, you talk about physical abilities and the potential of our offense, the sky's the limit.

"I'm super excited about our offense, and so there was never a question of whether or not we would be a great offense. It was just a matter of us demanding a lot of out of us and having higher expectations and knowing we can't afford days like that."

After Monday's poor showing, Heaps tried to motivate and encourage his teammates.

"I know for myself as a leader I was really disappointed and frustrated, but when you get to that point you have to turn that around and put those things aside," Heaps said. "When you're in the locker room it's just a common thing to go around and show your support and make sure guys are alright and try and pick them up."

Taking a more lighthearted approach to ease the pressure some placed on themselves, Heaps came up with a catchphrase as he went around the locker room.

"The line that I used yesterday was, ‘Thank goodness we have a two-a-days,'" Heaps said with a smile. "That was the line I used and went around and pat guys on the butt and showed them my support. We came back out later that day and I'm really proud of these guys for setting what happened aside and really coming out and getting things back on track. When that happens it's a good sign of a great team when everyone can put things aside and go out and perform at a high level again, and that's what we did yesterday and today."

For Tuesday's practice, the coaches ran the periods based on specific game situations set in overtime and within the blue zone.

"We had some really good drives in our overtime segment and in our skeli," said Di Luigi. "Today's situation was overtime from the 25-yard line. We have to get a touchdown in that setting or get a field goal, and we were able to do both of those. We did the first-team twice and the second-team once with eight plays to get into the end zone."

"We're trying to get our team as ready for every situation as possible," said Heaps. "Our coaching staff is doing a great job of getting us ready for each situation: third downs, blue zone, two minute and overtime. We do everything, and so for us it's good to be exposed to those situations that might occur in the game."

In this part of practice, Heaps went 3-of-5 for a total of 29 yards and one touchdown to sophomore receiver Dallin Cutler. Nelson didn't have any passing attempts and ran the ball for a gain of two yards with the second-team offense.

"The touchdown by Jake was in overtime and it was a great catch by Dallin Cutler," recalled Di Luigi. "Jake made a great throw and Dallin got the touchdown."

"We came back strong today and we have all the tools to do whatever we need to do," Heaps said. "I feel really good about how we prepared ourselves and how we executed during today's situation. Sure, there's always room for improvement, but I think we're very well prepared for these situations as possible. It's about our offense turning it up a notch and sustaining drives and I'm really pleased with today's results and very proud of our football team."

A real weapon

Field goal kicker Justin Sorensen kicked three consecutive 36-yard field goals during Tuesday's practice. Then he followed that performance up with three more successful field goals from a distance of 43 yards. If Sorensen can continue with that type of consistency, he will become a real weapon for the offense.

Injury update

Although suited up, tight end Devin Mahina was held out of team practice Tuesday due to a small neck issue he suffered on Monday. He'll have it looked at on Tuesday by team doctors.

"I don't think it's too bad but I can't really turn my head that much, but I should be alright," said Mahina.

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