The first-team offensive line got good push at the line of scrimmage in the early going Saturday, and RBBobby Purify was the first to find the end zone on a 2-yard cutback run. Purify displayed the bigger, stronger version of himself, rushing six times for 32 yards, and moving the pile considerably on two carries.
Mike Duren led all receivers with four catches for 48 yards.
In the second series of the scrimmage, the No. 1 defense frustrated the No. 2 offense, keeping them from moving the first-down sticks for 13 straight plays.
Alex Ligon nearly had an interception midway through the series, and Vaka Manupuna broke through for a sack on the next play. (Plays were whistled dead when a sack was imminent, and no quarterbacks were hit live).
The No. 1 defense came up with the first of three turnovers on the day (two interceptions, one fumble) when quarterback Brian White hit wide receiver Blake Mackey in the chest with a pass, but Mackey couldn't close the deal, and the ball ricocheted up in the air only to land in safety Tyrone Henderson's arms.
Mackey was on the receiving end of one of the biggest plays of the day, hauling in a 21-yard catch from Klatt, on the next series.
Defensive end James Garee said an emphasis has been placed by defensive coaches on creating turnovers this August. During several plays, D-Line coach Chris Wilson could be heard yelling for his players to get the ball.
"That's one of our biggest things that we've been working on," Garee said. "I think it's really helping."
Another emphasis has been on minimizing the big play, or "explosion play," something that hurt the Buffs nearly every game last season. Saturday, the defense didn't allow any.
"Explosion plays are the worst part of the game if you're on defense," Garee said. "Most games we lose, we have more than four or five explosion plays that almost always result in a touchdown. That's definitely more of a focus this year."
Even though they didn't generate any explosion plays, Klatt was pleased with the No. 1 offense Saturday.
"Our wide receiver position stepped up and played well. Our offensive line did a helluva job on running the football," he said. "What you saw today was an indication of where we want to go in terms of offensive line surge, and taking the line of scrimmage to the defensive side of the ball — really doing good things up front, and then our running backs really running north and south; gaining those four ugly yards."
Klatt had begun to push a little bit in recent practices, trying to make things happen that weren't there. It's one of the only criticisms you could level at his performance in 2003.
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and Klatt had a long conversation Friday.
"We just have to keep him balanced," Watson said. "(I told him) don't do too much, just do what the offense asks you to do and execute it. He did that today; he was lights out."
Cox Holding off White in No. 2 QB Race
Cox, a sophomore, struggled in his first series, running the second offense versus the first defense. He went just 1-for-6, and earned a penalty when he pulled away from center early on another play.
But after looking uncomfortable during that stretch, he saw time with the No. 1 offense later, and played much better. He finished the afternoon 5-of-12 for 50 yards, and led the ones on a scoring drive, which culminated in a 7-yard run by Daniel Jolly. Jolly fumbled in the end zone, but Sam Wilder recovered for the score.
"I thought Cox was impressive," Gary Barnett said. "He had a nice drive.
"And I think you can see how much talent those two young guys have," Barnett added, speaking of White and Bernard Jackson.
At this point, White looks like he's slightly ahead of Jackson and slightly behind Cox in the battle for No. 2.
"Brian White has really matured. He's put himself in a position where we've got to evaluate his day-to-day progress," Watson said. "(No. 2) is not a slam dunk deal. James is still playing a high level, but Brian's also doing that. Bernard's just been a little more inconsistent. But he still has his moments of greatness. He's just got to continue to work."
Watson said the main thing separating Cox from the redshirt freshmen White and Jackson is experience. But he added that White has been closing the gap.
He said the depth chart will likely solidify itself by the end of the coming week.
Who's On First?
The following are the No. 1 lineups on the first play of their respective series:
OFFENSE: Monteilh, Judge, Klopfenstein, Klatt, Vickers, Purify, O'Neal, Barreau, Fenton, Daniels, Wilder.
DEFENSE: Garee, McChesney, Manupuna, Ligon, Iwuh, Ackermann, Griffith, Brooks, Henderson, Sims, Burl.
If you read the paragraph above, you'll notice the biggest surprise on the day, in terms of depth chart. Jason Ackermann and Kyle Griffith were running with the first team defense in its initial series Saturday.
Throughout the afternoon, inside linebackers coach Brian Cabral was shuffling players in and out at the mike and will spot. And both Thadd Washington (ankle) and Walter Boye-Doe have been banged up a little in practice recently, giving reps to other players. (Both played Saturday).
However, "it isn't the same with how we finished in the spring," Cabral said.
After spring, Akarika Dawn and Washington looked like sure-fire starters at inside linebacker. But something has upset the balance.
"There's a new piece to the equation. That's Jordon Dizon," Cabral said. "This is going to be a real good evaluation period for me. We'll see where things settle down.
"There's just a lot of competition happening. That's going to make us better."
Cabral said Dizon has showed quickness and "he's always around the ball, and when he's around the ball, he's always making things happen."
Saturday was the first full-contact action Dizon has had since he suffered a minor shoulder injury earlier in the week. He's been practicing at the will position, where Dawn was penciled in as starter when camp opened.
Cabral said he will probably not decide on starters until game week. This will be something to watch.
Here's a list of players who did not participate Saturday because of injuries. Chris Hollis (foot surgery), Abraham Wright, Joe Sanders, Brandon Dabdoub (chest/precautionary), Terrence Wheatley, Vance Washington, J.J. Billingsley (knee scope).
Matt McChesney left the scrimmage with an ankle injury. Purify had ice on his hand, but looked like he could have continued playing.
Derek Stemrich came into the scrimmage early with the No. 1 offense, then sat out the rest of the scrimmage. Barreau and Gary Moore saw time at guard opposite Brian Daniels when Stemrich was out (and Barreau was the starter. Barreau also saw time at center with the twos.
Scrimmage HYPE (believe it or not!)
Overall, this is not a team that's ready to play Colorado State tomorrow. But, then, it should be. It's got two weeks of preparation remaining. The offensive line looks ahead of where it was a year ago this time. For that matter, the offense as a whole does.
Klatt was sharp as a razor. Purify was running with both (improved) power and quickness. They ran Jolly primarily as a tailback with the No. 1 offense when Purify wasn't in there. Caesar got a lot of carries with the twos. Byron Ellis looked good running the ball when he was in there.
Staying healthy on the offensive line will be a key to success. Coaches like the depth that's developed there, but there could be some serious holes if a player or two goes down.
These wide receivers will be fine. Not as spectacular as 2003, but better than 2001. They'll rotate six or seven guys. The passing game of the No. 1 offense was open all day along vs. the twos.
I thought Stephone Robinson played well for a guy who's been on that side of the line for a week. He had five tackles. He came up and tackled Vickers on one play, and Vickers jumped up jawing away at him.
Pretty decent crowd. I'm guessing between 1,500-1,800.
Players will have their first day off Sunday since camp began.
Drive 1 (1st Team Offense vs. 2nd Team Defense)—Purify 2 run (Crosby PAT)
Drive 6 (1st Team Offense vs. 2nd Team Defense)—Crosby 42 FG
Drive 10 (1st Team Offense vs. 2nd Team Defense)—Crosby 27 FG
Drive 13 (2nd Team Offense vs. 1st Team Defense)—Jolly 7 run (Crosby PAT)
Plays—107 (103 scrimmage, 4 kicks). Time—1:30.