Sonny Cumbie was next in line, and started his drives from the 40-yard line. Cumbie immediately found Trey Haverty for a 15-yard gain. The pass hung in the air a little too long, allowing Raymond Pierce to deliver a crushing hit as Haverty made the reception. The drive stalled when Cumbie threw two incomplete passes on second and third downs. Cumbie continued to have problems on his second drive, completing just 2 passes and once again failing to score. Cumbie completed 5 of 9 passed for 39 yards in his first two drives.
Next up was Robert Johnson, and a new starting spot. The offense was now starting just thirty yards from the endzone, perhaps due to the lack of production in the first four drives. On his first play form scrimmage, Johnson found Joey Hawkins for an 11 yard gain. On the following play Johnnie Mack took a handoff 21 yards for a touchdown. Johnson tried to keep the momentum going on his second drive but fell just short. The first play was a 14 yard pass to Haverty. Tyler Yenzer got good penetration on the following play to get a sack. On the third play of the drive Johnosn was once again under pressure, but the junior calmly rolled out to the right and threw a perfect pass to Brian Bishop for a 12 yard gain. On third down Johnson missed a pass to Bishop in the flats. Johnson's third drive got off to an auspicious start when he fumbled the ball as he tried to evade the pass rush. On the following play Joel Filani caught a 10 yard pass, and was hit hard by Khalid Naziruddin. Johnson found the endzone with a 25 yard pass to Bishop, who made an excellent move at the 14 yard line to evade a tackler and find the end zone.
Cumbie was next in line, and the senior didn't take long to score his first touchdown of the day. The first play saw John Saldi lay a brutal hit on Filani following a 5-yard reception. Taurean Henderson gained 10 yards on the ground on the following play. Cumbie finished the drive with a 2 yard pass to Slade Hodges for the touchdown. The defense made their presence felt on Cumbie's next drive. It started with Randall Cherry forcing Cumbie out of the pocket for an eventual incomplete pass. On the following play Jabari Smith and Manuel Ramirez had to be separated after some extracurricular activity between the two, marking the first confrontation of the day. After a penalty, Filani dropped a pass from Cumbie. SirDon Lewis capped off the drive with an interception on the right sideline on what would have been third down. Like Johnosn, Cumbie also got a third chance form the 30, and took advantage of it. On the first play Cumbie found Filani for a 26 yard strik to set up a 4 yard touchdown pass to Henderson.
Next up was Phillip Daugherty. Daugherty played decent, completing 6 of his 8 pass attempts, but he also fumbled once. This drive also saw Taurence Rawls get his first carry of the day, though only for 3 yards.
Next were a series of plays designed to simulate an attempt to get a first down after being pinned at the offense's 5 yard line. Hodges achieved first downs in his two series. Cumbie came in next and found Filani for 14 yard son the first play. The play led to a confrontation between Mack and Saldi that saw the larger Saldi throw Mack to the ground. Mack didn't see any action after the incident. Cumbie was successful on all four attempts to achieve a first down. the highlight was a short pass to Henderson that turned into an 88 yard touchdown after a defensive breakdown.
Next up were drives from the 50. Johnson started things with a 3-yard pass to Taurance Rawls, who was leveled by a Geremy Woods hit. Johnson found the end zone when he scrambled and threw a perfect strike to Ricky Wegner for the touchdown. On the following drive Johnson found Filani for a 38 yard gain that ended the drive.
Next up was Cumbie, who continued to have problems. The biggest offensive play was a 20 yard pass to Henderson, but the play was brought back 10 yards due to a holding call. Ken Scott was credited with a sack after he chased down Cumbie 17 yards deep in the backfield. On the final play of the drive Chris Parker made a nice breakup on a pass to Jarrett Hicks. Cumbie took two more snaps before Daugherty came in again. The first play was a 6 yard pass to Hicks. On the second play Cumbie badly missed on a pass to Hicks.
Overall it was a good practice for several players. Both running backs had good days, showing that the run game should continue to be strong in 2004. Filani, Haverty, Bishop, and Wegner all had excellent days as well. On the defensive side of the ball, Pierce, Lewis, Saldi, and Cherry led the way from their respective positions. The defense as a whole made a big statement today with a nice performance without a couple of key players. Right now it feels like a different defense, and it will be interesting to see what comes of their new attitude.
The quarterback position was the story of the day though. Cumbie finished the day with 23 completions on 31 attempts for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Johnson completed 12 of 15 attempts for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. While the stats are relatively close if you adjust for the difference in attempts, Johnson stole the show today. Cumbie on the other hand had a ll kinds of problems, and frequently looked flustered in the pocket. You would like to see better from a potential starter who has had a long time to learn Coach Leach's system. At times Johnson was somewhat slow to find the open receiver, but that's a luxury you have when you have a player that can create time by leaving the pocket. I expect the reads to come quicker with time, especially considering it is less than two weeks since Johnson first stepped onto the practice fields. After Friday's practice I said that Johnson needed to back up his performance on Friday in a practice with pads, and he did exactly that today. Johnson has to be the favorite for the starting job right now thanks to his outstanding performance sin the last two practices. Cumbie is certainly a solid quarterback, but Johnson brings too much to the table to leave him on the bench.