Pluses and Minues in Rams Scrimmage

Fort Collins - Colorado State University football coach Sonny Lubick said he saw plenty of positives and plenty of things his team will continue to work on following a 90-minute scrimmage Saturday.

Lubick put his team through its most extensive live hitting of the season as the Rams prepare for the season opener Sept. 4 at Colorado (Fox Sports Network; Colorado State Sports Network including KCOL, 600 AM in Fort Collins and KNUS, 710 AM in Denver).

"I saw some very positive things," Lubick said following the practice. "But, we have to keep working and see if we can get better. We need to be a better tackling team on defense. Offensively we showed some consistency."

Lubick matched his top offensive and defensive units against one another, and backups were matched against each other during the scrimmage. During the scrimmage CSU's offense took possession at its own 30- or 40-yard line, and produced a pair of scores.

Quarterback Justin Holland, a junior from Bear Creek High and the state's schoolboy career passing leader, hit his first five passes and finished the day by completing 13-of-17 passes for 117 yards including a 20-yard scoring pass to tight end Matt Bartz. Later in the scrimmage, kicker Jeff Babcock from Tampa, Fla., hit a 50-yard field goal to climax a drive by one of the team's backup offensive units.

Six other scores came during possessions that began at the defense's 20- and 30-yard lines, respectively.

Lubick said the the team's collection of runningbacks played well Saturday. Marcus Houston started and finished by gaining 43 yards on 11 carries. Houston replaced Jimmy Green, out with a minor ankle injury, with the team's top offense. Uldis Jaunarajs, Holland's prep teammate at Bear Creek, took rushing honors with 64 yards on 16 carries while Tristan Walker gained 58 yards on 10 carries. Freshman Gartrell Johnson, who gained 43 yards on just three carries, had the longest rush of the day, 28 yards.

Walker, who missed all but one game last year after suffering a knee injury that required surgery in the opener, set up the first score of the scrimmage with an 18-yard run. Holland passed to Bartz on a 20-yard scoring play on the third drive of the scrimmage to produce a touchdown.

"I thought the running backs all ran pretty well," said Lubick. "A glaring weakness was that the defense hit the back in the hole and allowed them to bounce back and turn a three-yard gain into a six-yard gain. A big thing on defense to work on is tackling - keeping the back from falling forward."

Lubick said the offense moved the ball at times during the scrimmage and the team's defense responded with several big plays.

"We moved the ball, though we broke down in some areas," he said. "The defense came up with some big plays to keep them from scoring. One thing we have to do is get more physical on both sides of the ball"

Redshirt freshmen Jesse Nading from ThunderRidge High and Blake Smith from Tulsa, Okla., each had a quarterback sack as did Luke Adkins, a sophomore from Austin, Tex.

The Rams were whistled for only 5 penalties in the scrimmage, three by the offense but one was particularly costly, said Lubick.

"We had one major, foolish penalty when the offense had the ball at the two-yard line and jumped and we didn't score. That's discipline," he said.

Lubick said he and his staff will continue the evaluate the team's backup quarterbacks behind Holland. He said junior Joey Kearney from ThunderRidge High and Caleb Hanie, a freshman from Forney, Tex., are battling for the backup spot.

"Joey is more experienced. He can take over for us in a game, and do what he has to do," said Lubick. "Caleb is doing well for a freshman who has been here two weeks. He's getting better each day."

Kearney completed 7-of-8 passes for 84 yards while Hanie was 4-of-5 for 20 yards.

Lubick also said the team's kicking game was solid Saturday. Returning starter Jeff Babcock, who ranks among the school's career leaders in scoring and field goal accuracy, punted twice for a 49-yard average behind his 50-yard field goal. Babcock handled by duties last year, but redshirt freshman Jimmie Kaylor, who punted once for 55 yards, is bidding for the starting job.

Another focal point for the Rams leading up to the opening game will be conditioning, Lubick said.

"We are in good condition, but we cannot lose any of our conditioning," he said.

Four players including Green missed the scrimmage with minor injuries but are expected to return to practice during the coming week.

With classes beginning Monday, the team moves into a routine of practicing daily at 3:30 p.m. south of Moby Arena. Lubick said his team will begin game-type preparations for the opener late next week.

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