Practice Report: August 27

Colorado struggled through a scrimmage Friday at Folsom Field, running through various situations that can occur during the course of a ballgame. The scrimmage produced what could be a significant injury, as sophomore wide out <!--Default NodeId For Tyler Littlehales is 1223469,2004--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:1223469]>Tyler Littlehales</A> went down with a knee problem.

"That was not particularly crisp," Gary Barnett said after the scrimmage, which lasted roughly an hour and a half. "We made mistakes that I'm glad we made on the Friday eight days before we play. We've got a lot of work to do."

The team used the scrimmage to work on situations that arise, but that you don't normally have time to prepare for in the course of a typical practice. Many of the situations had to do with special teams, such as punting out of the team's own end zone, blocking an 11-man punt rush, and having the field goal team run onto the field and get a kick off within 15 seconds, as can happen at the end of a half or game.

At one point, coaches called two consecutive time outs, "icing" placekicker Mason Crosby, who was lining up for a field goal attempt.

Crosby hit that particular field goal, a 42-yarder. However, the sophomore missed his two other attempts, a 35-yarder and a 44-yarder. Kevin Eberhart's point after attempt, the only one of the afternoon, hit the uprights and was no good, in the only other placekicking attempt.

The kickers' struggles echoed the struggles much of the team went through, just six days after the Buffalo first teamers looked sharp in the team's first scrimmage of camp. Part of the reason could have been due to the odd nature of the situational scrimmage.

"It's all kind of funky situations that come up in a game," quarterback Joel Klatt said. "Most of a game is ‘Let's go out there, let's put together a drive.' Very rarely do you get these kind of situations, and they usually come at the end of the game. It's hard to get that sense of flow."

The offense spent a few drives in the two-minute drill — and the defense kept them out of the end zone each time. Both Klatt and James Cox got shots at the end zone as time was ticking down on Hail Mary passes, too. Again, the defense came out on top. Cornerback Lorenzo Sims came up with Cox's throw to the end zone.

Klatt was intercepted twice in the scrimmage in more normal situations. The junior underthrew his target — Joe Klopfenstein in the corner of the end zone — under heavy pass-rush pressure and Lionel Harris came up with the pick. Later, Klatt threw a lob pass to Blake Mackey, but Chris Russell wrestled the ball away from the receiver on the way down.

Earlier in the scrimmage, however, it was the offense that came up with two big plays. Mackey got behind Gerett Burl down the sidelines and hauled in a perfect pass from Brian White, and outraced everyone to the end zone for an 80-yard play. And running back Daniel Jolly ran inside, then cut back and found daylight until Tom Hubbard chased him down 43 yards later.

Afterwards, Barnett didn't hide his concern.

"We got a couple interceptions, but I also thought we gave up some big plays," he said. "We gave up a big long run to Jolly and a long throw to Mackey. We haven't been doing that. That always sends an alarm when that starts happening."

Barnett was also concerned with punt coverage, which gave up a block when Tyler Littlehales broke through the line and blocked a J.P. Heaton attempt. Bobby Purify recovered it and bounced into the end zone.

J.J. Billingsley said the team may have not had the right frame of mind.

"I think we're ready," he said, "but I don't know what was up today."

Klatt, who led the No. 1 offense easily down the field in an early series against the No. 2 defense, said the team is ready for game week, despite the off practice.

"I think everybody is sick of practice," he said. "The good thing about it is the next time we're out here it'll be live bullets and we'll have the Rams out here. We're all excited to get to game week and play a game."

Barnett said the team has its work cut out for it in the next eight days.

"I didn't think we were particularly sharp in any phase of the game," he said. "But, again, I'm not surprised given the format. It just shows how much work we have to do."

The major injury of the day occurred when J.J. Billingsley tackled WR Tyler Littlehales on a pass play out in the flat. Littlehales stayed on the ground for a while and was helped off the field by two teammates. He was eventually taken away and had an MRI done on his knee. The extent of the injury, in which he also tweaked an ankle, was not known directly following practice.

Tackle Sam Wilder left the game after taking a knee to the kidney area. It wasn't thought to be something that would cause him to miss time after Friday.

Brandon Caesar was not in pads. Any injury he may have was not made public.

Thaddeaus Washington and Daniel Sanders were back in action.

Billingsley getting closer to 100 percent
Speaking of Billingsley, the junior safety saw full contact action for the first time in over a week, after having his knee scoped last Thursday. While Tyrone Henderson ran with the first team during the first part of the scrimmage, Billingsley also saw plenty of time with the first and second units throughout the practice.

"I was starting to get nervous, thinking what's going on with my knee," Billingsley said about his time on the sidelines this past week. However, he said it felt fine Friday.

"It didn't bother me at all," he said.

In Billingsley's absence, Henderson has gotten a lot of valuable reps alongside Dominique Brooks. Billingsley should be well enough to start vs. CSU.

Asked if, despite the problems that showed up Friday, the defense was ready for game week, Billingsley said, "We feel good going into the game. We're just looking forward to playing. We're hungry. We've been waiting for it since that end of last season."

Billingsley had earned the confidence of new secondary coach Craig Bray before his injury. The safety said the new mentor has brought a lot to the defensive backs in the past weeks of camp.

"He's making us smarter, having us read keys," Billingsley said. "We've learned a lot of things that we didn't know."

The team picked captains Friday night. The choices will be made public Saturday. …The referees who officiated the scrimmage were scheduled to have dinner with the team and give them some pointers about penalties and how to avoid them. …It's looking more and more like for what is believed to be the first time in modern program history, Colorado will start a true freshman at linebacker in its first game. True frosh Jordon Dizon (will) and Akarika Dawn (mike) were running as the first team inside linebackers for most of the scrimmage. Thaddaeus Washington also saw some time with the ones alongside Dizon. …When Wilder went down, Tyler Polumbus played tackle with the ones the rest of the way, and looked good. Jack Tipton, who backed up Wilder in the spring, is covering both tackle and guard reserve spots. Barnett said, "It's just the way we have to rotate them. We don't have a lot of numbers there." …stats weren't kept, but Jolly had the most yards on the ground. Byron Ellis had a number of carries with the backup squad. The biggest hit of the afternoon came when Ellis got free for a 12-yard scamper before Brooks came up and popped him for the stop. …Mackey looked like a bigtime player on his 80-yard score, but should have come down with the ball vs. Russell. …Torp got off a 68-yard punt from the back of his end zone.

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