Red-Black game report

Saturday's Red-Black game was thought by many to be a key day in the quarterback race, but the format of the scrimmage may have created more questions than answers.

If you went into this year's Red-Black game hoping for an even comparison between the two quarterbacks battling for the starting job, you probably left the game disappointed. Sonny Cumbie had the benefit of playing exclusively with the first team offense against the second and third team defensive players, while Robert Johnson was forced to play with the second string offense against the first string defense. Due to these circumstances it was hard to say too much about either of the quarterbacks. Cumbie did have a good performance, but the defense does drop off notably when you remove the starters. For the past week and a half, the starting defense has had its way with Cumbie. On the other side of the coin, Johnson had to play an improving defense without the supporting cast that Cumbie was able to use. The sub par offensive line play, combined with a very quick whistle on any potential rushes by the junior quarterback, equated to a disappointing day for Johnson.

The quick whistles on rushes by Johnson were particularly damaging because many of the rushes would have resulted in first downs, giving Johnson a better opportunity in the game. For example, Johnson's first drive was a three and out, but a third down rush by Johnson would have been a first down if the whistle had not been blown. It's hard to gauge what the effect was, but the effect was noticeable. Johnson was limited to just 12 pass attempts, though he did complete 11 of those. Johnson's highlight of the day was a 23 yard pass to Bristol Olomua. Cumbie was an impressive 17 of 20 against the second team defense. Most of the long gains came off short screens, but Cumbie did have a nice strike to Joel Filani for 25 yards.

While this scrimmage will probably be viewed by fans as a decisive turn in the quarterback battle, it is important to look at the rest of the spring practices. While Cumbie did play better in today's game, there is no telling what would have happened had Johnson played with the first team and been allowed to run. His previous performances have shown just how good Johnson can be with the first team offense. On Wednesday Johnson completed 24 of 26 passes, just one of his outstanding performances this spring. Johnson has a stronger, more accurate arm, and is faster. Right now the only negative is his grasp of the offense, though he has shown a solid understanding of Leach's scheme. Over the course of this spring, Johnson has been consistently better, and should still be considered the favorite for the starting spot. It is unfortunate that this game was viewed by more fans than any other practice, and therefore will leave many people with the idea that Cumbie had the better spring.


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