This followed the plan outlined last Saturday when head coach Mike Gundy and offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said all of the offense had been installed except for goal line and short yardage situations, and that those aspects of the attack would be installed this week. By late in the practice - when the offense and defense were slamming into each other pretty good - it was obvious that it had been installed and tested.
The full pad practice broke into lengthy full contact situational team period complete with officials, and the action lasted the final hour of practice. Most all of the snaps with the first unit were taken by quarterbacks Donovan Woods and Bobby Reid. Despite the top two centers on the depth chart missing there were no problems with snaps, primarily because most of the time the quarterbacks were under center and it was power football.
Running backs Michael Hamilton and Julius Crosslin were pretty steady in working both off the goal line and in the short yardage situations as Hamilton had five carries for 20 yards. Crosslin had eight carries for 24 yards. The offense and defense battled on fairly even terms as first downs were the result in about half of the situations. One defensive highlight came when linebacker Lawrence Pinson crashed in on a third down-and-four from the 11 and blasted Hamilton, holding the big back to a two-yard gain. Pinson took on lead blocker fullback John Johnson disposed of him and then hit Hamilton.
Passing was a tough proposition as there were no completed passes and safety Jeremy Nethon, defensive end Trumain Carroll, defensive tackle Ryan McBean and defensive end Chris Woods all registered sacks.
The noise from the pads popping increased as the work moved to the three-yard line and goal line situations. On the first play Mike Hamilton bulled through the line and dove over the goal line. Hamilton followed that up with another touchdown, this time nudging even further into the end zone. In between the two scoring plays Hamilton had a two-yard gain that the defense claimed he fumbled. The officiating crew ruled he was down much to the chagrin of defensive coordinator Vance Bedford, who said he wanted a replay on the Jumbotron. Gundy sent Hamilton to the sidelines as he prodded the defense by telling Hamilton, "they can't stop you."
The goal line skirmish ended with a pretty rollout by Reid where he escaped the defense with enough distance to keep Gundy from blowing his whistle to kill the play. The head coach seemed to like what he saw.
"I felt very good about practice again," said Gundy. "I was disappointed in our ability to convert on third and long. That's one of those areas that we've talked about needing to get better at. I was very excited that for the first time we've worked goal line and short yardage that we had backs that would run down hill and run hard.
"Defense was in position at times, wasn't always blocked right, but we had guys that are willing to get down hill and get us two or three yards. We've had a lot of success doing that the last four years here, and even though we've changed the style of offense it's important to me that we're physical in short yardage situations. Defense forced a turnover once and the first defense was good on third and two. It was pretty evenly matched. I was really encouraged by some of the collisions we had on both sides of the ball."
The practice finished with a two-minute drill and both top two quarterbacks shined. Donovan Woods took the offense from its own 30 to a score in five plays hitting 4-of-5 passes for 70 yards. The biggest play was a run and catch over the middle to his wide receiver brother D'Juan that covered 51 yards. One play later Woods found tight end Paschal Smith for 12 yards down to the five. After an attempt to hit D'Juan with a fade in the end zone, Donovan Woods came back and hit Smith crossing midway through the end zone for the five-yard touchdown. It was a pass with plenty of sip on it. For Smith, who is 6-5, 265 pounds, it's nice to get the chance to make plays. In fact, he admitted he may have been happier than Charlie Johnson when the coaches moved the senior standout from tight end to offensive tackle.
"I think I was," said Smith when asked the reaction to Johnson's move. "That kind of bumped me up to a better position and I might be able to start. I redshirted the first year I got here and last year had to play behind Billy (Bajema) and Charlie, but now it is starting to pay off."
The touchdown catch was a sign of things to come for the Dallas Carter product.
"It felt really good," said Smith. "Everybody was pretty much going the other way and that left me open. It was an easy catch."
On the final two-minute drill Bobby Reid finished 5-of-6 passing for 62 yards. Reid connected on three passes in a row to start the drive -- 10 yards to Julius Crosslin, five yards to Tommy Devereaux, and seven yards to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Then on a Reid scramble that netted 18 yards there was a holding penalty. Reid came back to hit wide receiver Seth Newton for 11 yards and Errick McCown over the middle for 22 yards. However, a dropped snap, another holding penalty, and a sack kept the offense from scoring.
Reid will get his chance again on Saturday when the Cowboys hold their next to last major scrimmage at 11:45 a.m. The team will also practice Thursday in shorts to polish for Saturday. Thursday's practice, weather permitting, will begin at 4:10 p.m. All practices are open to the public.
Spring Football Practice: March 30
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