Big plays, turnovers dominate Tuesday scrimmage

On the opening offensive play of Tuesday's scrimmage at DKR, <B>Chris Simms</B> connected with <B>Sloan Thomas</B> on a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown, setting a big-play tone in the Horns' final scrimmage before Saturday's Spring Game. The senior QB also hit <B>Tony Jeffery</B> with a 57-yard scoring strike and completed two to guys in the wrong colored jerseys later in the scrimmage.

"The most important thing about a late spring scrimmage is that they play hard and we don't get anybody hurt and today was that way," Mack Brown said. "We saw a lot of good individual performances. Overall, the offense made some really big plays, especially against the two defense, but there were too many turnovers with the offense and that's what we've got to correct."

The first-team offense scored two TDs, on the long receptions by Thomas and Jeffery, and the second-team offense found the end zone once, on an Anthony Johnson 15-yard run, but the two units combined for five turnovers. Along with the INT tosses to Marcus Tubbs (!) and Reed Boyd by Simms, Chance Mock also threw a pick to Kendal Briles and both Cedric Benson and Artie Ellis put the ball on the Memorial Stadium grass.

Aside from the deep balls to Thomas and Jeffery and a breakaway run by Brett Robin, all vs. the second-team defense, Carl Reese's guys, particularly the first-teamers, held Greg Davis' guys in check. The No. 1 defensive unit forced four consecutive three-and-out series by the second-team offense, and then followed up those shut-down series by forcing two turnovers and two sacks and allowing no points on the final five possessions of the first O (interspersed with back-ups).

"I thought it was our best day defensively," the head coach said. "The defense is getting better and we're looking better across the first group on defense."

The defensive standouts included several guys from the defensive front four. Tubbs registered a sack (beating No. 2 LG Trey Bates on the play) and an INT on the day, Austin Sendlein pressured Simms on both the Tubbs' pick and the Boyd INT by handily beating back-up LT Alfio Randall (back-up RDE Chase Pittman also got around Randall for a QB pressure and a sack during the scrimmage) and Miguel McKay continued his fall playing time quest with two TFLs on Anthony Johnson (beating No. 3 RG Mike Garcia) plus two QB pressures and a sack of Simms (beating No. 2 RG Lionel Garr on all three plays).

"We didn't play as well with our second bunch and I thought we were really inconsistent with both second teams today," Brown added. "That's what today was about, trying to get young guys to step up. This will be a great film for us to see who we feel like is making a lot of progress."

Even without the benefit of the film, it's apparent that one back-up is definitely making progress. Anthony Johnson unofficially totaled 87 yards on 21 carries. Running behind a make-shift O-line led to several negative gainers, but the redshirt freshman also turned in runs of 15 (on his tackle-breaking TD run to the right pylon vs. the second D) and 12 yards, plus seven-to-nine yard gainers seven different times.

"I think Anthony Johnson has had a good spring and he had another good day today," Brown said. "He's got really good hands and he's making good runs every time we come out regardless of who's on the field. He still needs to improve without the ball, especially with his blocking."

That was evident on one play when Johnson whiffed at a rushing Kaelen Jakes, who then pressured Matt Nordgren and forced the QB to scramble out of the pocket. Overall, though, the tailback from Jefferson made another positive spring impression.

Scrimmage notes: Michael Huff missed his second day of scrimmage work with a muscle pull but he is expected back for Saturday's Spring Game. With Huff out, Cedric Griffin, Briles and Rufus Harris took all of the safety snaps. Briles and Griffin worked with the first-team defense and Harris subbed when Griffin slid up to nickel back. With the second-team D, Griffin played at corner while Briles and Harris manned the safety spots. . . . DEs Sendlein and Jakes took some snaps at defensive tackle. . . . [Editor's note: More scrimmage notes in our next report.]

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