SCRIMMAGE: Defense comes out swinging

CORVALLIS--The first OSU scrimmage didn't go off quite as scripted. But a decent sized crowd was still treated to a defense allowed to finish off their hits -- Al Afalava, Dennis Christopher, James Dockery, Greg Laybourn and a few more took full advantage. Meanwhile, the offensive line got in some licks of their own, Ryan McCants and others flexed their muscles and Mike Riley speaks into the mic.

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The planned Saturday scrimmage, with officials, was reduced to a regular practice session at the Truax facility but with the change that defenders were able to finish their tackles and the o-line to finish their blocks. There was a crowd of about 250 on hand, and the staff stepped in as the officials.

QB Sean Canfield, slowly recovering from offseason labrum surgery, stayed out of the drills and scrimmages. Subscribers can listen to Mike Riley's complete comments on the No. 2 quarterback, plus a whole lot more, in these two audio clips:

Part I --

Part II --

Scrimmage 11 vs. 11
Both QBs, Lyle Moevao and Justin Engstrom, got about 4 snaps each on each turn, and the offense mixed and matched with a number of players rotating in and out. It should probably be noted none of the moves is necessarily indicative of a player moving up or down the depth chart -- the staff is simply taking stock.

The defense, now unleashed, came up strong and stopped the offense most of the time here.

Indeed, they allowed only two passing plays more than 10 yards. But it should also be noted that on two long passes, the defense clearly seemed to have interfered with the pass.

Keith Pankey got away from Sammie Stroughter's block and tackled Shane Morales on one nice play for the defense.

The two 10-plus yard receptions came courtesy of Damola Adeniji and Taylor Kavanaugh.

Ryan McCants is certainly strong enough to break a few tackles and he showed off that skill plenty on Saturday. He also made a sweet cut on a run, leaving Lance Mitchell with his shoes untied.

The hit of the day came from none other than Al Afalava. Brady Camp had just caught Engstrom's short pass and Afalava introduced himself just as he was turning downfield. Camp ended up with his back on the ground, but somehow still managed to hold on to the ball. A good play on both ends.

Dennis Christopher on a blitz tripped up the elusive James Rodgers in the backfield with one hand -- you could really see this one coming the way Christopher has been playing the last couple of days.

Damola Adeniji beat Austin Hall on a streak but Engstrom's pass falls short and wide.

Engstrom hooked up with Aaron Nichols despite Patrick Henderson almost riding on his back -- nice hands from Nichols to catch the pass, even with the obvious pass interference. The defense exhibited some great pass coverage here and on the day overall -- they made life a little more difficult for the QBs to be sure.

Scrimmage 11 vs. 11
Continuing their good play from the skelly, Keenan Lewis picked off Moevao on a deep pass to Stroughter. It was tight coverage and one could argue it probably shouldn't have been thrown but with Stroughter, there are times he goes up and gets it when it looks like there's no way possible for him to do so. Still, Moevao continues to play steady and sure, the difference from last year at this time and now is marked.

A few plays later, Stroughter catches one in the middle of the field, bobbled it a little bit and held on. And once he had control of the ball, he was gone. Touchdown Sammie. Not sure how the coaches felt about it but he also earned some extra style points from this vantage point -- Stroughter punctuated the score with a back flip in the end zone.

Austin Hall turned in a couple of good pass breakups on back-to-back plays. Then James Dockery wrapped up Kyle Brown by his ankles, bringing him down at the line of scrimmage -- a great defensive play. "Heck of a defensive play", agreed Riley.

Chris Johnson made a sterling one handed grab of a pass that was thrown behind him, though the QB was throwing on the run.

Ryan McCants shrugged off a couple of would-be tackles on his way to a nice gainer. But the offensive drive was stalled when Cameron Collins picked off Engstrom on the final play -- and ran it back for a TD. Collins read the play well, jumping in front of the receiver to make the pick.

Scrimmage 11 vs. 11, (Short yardage)
Greg Laybourn made an absolutely golden takedown of James Rodgers in the backfield. Meanwhile, Ryan McCants continued his power runs. Brady Camp wasn't afraid to take more hits and caught a couple in heavy traffic.

Red Zone Skelly
Jeremy Francis got open after a nicely run route but wasn't able to finish, bobbling away what likely would have been an easy TD. Keenan Lewis, who was beaten initially on the play, almost ended up making the pick. Shane Morales found paydirt, catching a TD pass. And the Quizzman got in on the act, ripping off a pair of great runs. The final play saw Engstrom hooking up with John Reese for a score.

Scrimmage Red zone, 11 vs. 11
Gabe Miller, Darrell Catchings and Jacquizz Rodgers all registered TDs. The offensive line plowed forward and opened some big holes with big blocks in the scrimmage. Timi Oshinowo turned in some very nice blocks, deservedly receiving praises from teammates and coaches. He had a solid outing today.

Brandon Hardin made a nice last second deflection in the end zone. Jeremy Francis dove through a hole in to the end zone on his scoring run -- nice timing on the dive as the gap wasn't there for long.

Play of the day
Al Afalava's hit on Brady Camp. But to his credit, Camp held onto the ball for the completion and yardage.

Youth development
The younger players practiced after the scrimmage and the best performer of the day, from this chair, was Anthony Watkins. QB Ryan Katz got in his work in this session, and the plan remains to redshirt him this season.

The punting improved considerably from the night before but there remains a lot of room for improvement and consistency.

A big improvement from Friday night but Ryan Allen missed a couple -- they weren't far off but they count the same as a big miss. Starter Justin Kahut has a groin injury and was resting it on Saturday after practicing partly on Friday night.

Special teams coverage and returns
The players that stood out most looked to be Brandon Hardin, James Dockery, Tim Clark and Sean Canfield. And Taylor Kavanaugh has a nice punt return.

Although it wasn't the scrimmage planned, because the defense was still able to tackle freely, and because the o-line was similarly allowed to really finish off their blocks, Saturday's session was almost certainly the best barometer to date of where the Beavers are a little less than halfway through fall camp.

Indeed, it should give the coaches a pretty decent roadmap for what the team is doing well, and what they need the most improvement on. The next full scrimmage is scheduled for Aug. 16. The one caveat there is the staff did rotate in a lot of players, mixing and matching to see who can do what at this point.

The defense came out strong on Saturday and didn't let up. Allowed the liberty to finish their tackles, the played very well and the pass coverage was exceptional. They will, however, need to balance the aggressiveness while staying away from pass interference calls. The Pac-10 officials' propensity for making PI calls -- slight contact be damned -- has been a Beaver bugaboo for a few years now.

The offensive line looks particular effective on short yardage situations. They created some good sized holes for the running backs along with good overall blocking in general.

Rodgers was tackled in the backfield a couple of times -- definitely good practice for the defense being able to go up against someone as quick as Rodgers and find some success. At the same time, Rodgers accumulated some good yardage on the afternoon.

Ryan McCants continues to look like the real deal -- and he has since the spring. He was hard to bring down on Saturday. McCants also managed to gain good yardage after the first contact. The punting game, even though it looked better than Friday night's session, is still up in the air.

The beavs will enjoy their first day off on Sunday since camp began on Aug. 1.

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