Offensive and Defensive Mood Swings

During blue zone drills, the defense struggled to keep the offense out of the end zone in what was a scoring fest by the offense during first team period. After being taken to the woodshed, the defense managed to redeem itself by turning from Mr. Hyde into Dr. Jekyll and repaying the offense in kind.

The offense reached pay dirt five times from the blue zone against the defense during Monday's morning practice. On the first two series, quarterback Riley Nelson rushed for back-to-back touchdowns, starting the offensive explosion.

"It was a good day and there were bright spots for either side," said Coach Mendenhall. "The blue zone period, the offense looked as sharp as they've ever been in this camp."

"The offense did great and they came out ready to play," said Robbie Buckner. "I think maybe they tried to attack one or two players that weren't doing their job, so it's something we have to work on in being one as a unit."

Jake Heaps trotted out onto the field with the second-team offense to face a mix of second- and first-team defenders. After an incomplete pass and an Austin Jorgensen sack, Heaps came roaring back with a single pass to tight end Richard Wilson over the middle for the third touchdown in as many offensive series.

"I just think the defense was a little tired mentally and physically, and we just had to have somebody come lift us up," said Buckner. "Sometimes it's just like that. The offense will come out strong and the defense isn't doing that well where we need somebody to come out life us up."

"Yeah, that's what we're trying to do is more fast-tempo stuff, especially against our corners because they're running so much," Luke Ashworth said. "We just want to go out there and score as quickly as we can and we did that. We were able to put a lot of pressure on them early and that carried us."

The offense attacked the corners on a consistent basis, but wide Ashworth credited their success to offensive chemistry rather than the defense simply not playing up to par.

"Well, we're out there having fun," he said. "We were having good team chemistry and just clicking. It was a lot of fun. We just wanted to score fast and move the ball fast and throw our defense off a little bit, so we just tried to throw off the defense and make it hard for them."

After scoring a touchdown on his first series, Heaps again directed the offense towards quick success during his second series. Following a 10-yard run by Di Luigi, Heaps hit O'Neill Chambers for a touchdown.

"We didn't come ready to play from the first play and that carried onto the first team to the second to the third," said cornerback Corby Eason. "They caught us off guard and they wanted it more than we did. In the blue zone, whoever wants it the most has the most success, and I guess we didn't want it as much as they did."

The scoring fest didn't stop there; Heaps then directed the offense in a three-play drive that would result in the fifth touchdown in the period. This time Cody Hoffman got into the action and caught a pass in the corner of the end zone.

However, the second period yielded much different results for the defense.

"In the second team period, the defense was just as dominant the other way where I'm not sure they allowed one or two first downs the whole time," Mendenhall said. "What that just simply reflects is still inconsistency, still pretty youthful, still not the execution, and so when the swings are happening that drastic it's just a matter of we have to keep playing and get the pieces going at the same direction at the same time."

"After the defense got whooped, and we're not used to getting whooped like that, we had to redeem ourselves," said Eason. "Then Coach Hill and Coach Mendenhall and the rest of the defensive staff holds us in high expectations, because we all know the offense sells tickets but the defense wins championships."

As the second period got underway, Thomas Bryson and Jameson Frazier both recorded a sack and the secondary tightened up as well. There were five dropped passes, as well as ball deflections and four incomplete passes thanks to tight coverage, that helped the defense redeem itself.

"The second team period we had a different mindset," said Buckner. "That's where the pride factor comes into it. We don't want to just have the offense dominate throughout all of practice, so we came out the second time and did much better."

What was the secret to the quick defensive turnaround?

"I'm not sure what it was," said Brandon Bradley. "I do know it's a good feeling to see the defense come out for the second part of team period and step it up a notch and come out and play."

Middle linebacker Austin Jorgensen seems to think he knows the reason.

"It took Coach Hill to threaten us with gassers to pick it up for the second team period," said Jorgensen with a smile. "It shouldn't take that really, but it did fire us up and we came out and finished strong. When it takes Coach Hill to threaten us, we know we didn't come out with the right tempo to start the first team period."

The defense held the offense out of the end zone in a 180 degree turnaround.

"Each guy knows individually that we got whooped that first team period, and so we didn't want to let them score again after that," said Eason. "We knew we had to come out the second time, even though we got whooped the first time, and play even stronger so we could redeem ourselves. That's what we did. I don't think the offense scored, but maybe one or two first downs the entire second team period."

"We were able to come out and not let the offense score any points," said Bradley. "It's good to see both sides coming out and battling back and forth. We don't want to see just one side having success and the other side not. It's good to see both sides of the ball battling. We can't start like that though. We have to come out fast and finish fast."

Sideline Notes

Jordan Pendleton was back out on the field and received spot duty with the first-team defense.

"Yeah, it was fun having him out there and it makes a difference obviously," Mendenhall said. "He did a nice job and we've been using good judgment on him, and I haven't made a decision on when he'll come back. We've kind of taken the approach that he goes in when he's ready, and so it was fun to see him and I think he's ready."


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