Early spring scrimmages are almost always dominated by the defense, as the offense is still learning to gel together. Saturday was no exception, as neither the first nor second team offense managed a single touchdown against the top two defenses.
The only touchdowns of the day were scored by the No. 3 offense against the No. 3 defense -- the first a 1-yard run by Rafael Bolton, and the second a beautiful 60-yard pass from Josh Swogger to Marty Martin. Martin finished the day with 6 catches for 82 yards. Swogger connected on four of his six passes for 104 yards.
Although neither of the top two offenses could score, both moved the ball fairly well at times but couldn't punch it across the goal line. In fact, the No. 1 offense's best drive was their final one, their only drive against the No. 1 defense. The offense drove inside the 10, but a holding penalty stalled the drive.
Some news and notes from the first scrimmage:
Quarterback Matt Kegel, whose backup spot is said to be in danger from freshman Chris Hurd, had a solid scrimmage with the No. 2 offense. Despite facing the top defense, Kegel was able to move the offense well, making correct reads and audibles on the vast majority of his plays. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 65 yards; most of them short outs and crossing patterns. He appears to currently have a good hold on the backup quarterback job, as Hurd had some troubles with the offense. Hurd completed four passes in ten attempts for 37 yards.
Safety Jeremy Bohannon had perhaps the biggest play of the day, intercepting a Jason Gesser pass and returning it 72 yards for a touchdown, eluding several tacklers on the play. The sophomore from Richland is adjusting well to his role in the defense, and should provide a solid backup to Virgil Williams.
Gesser threw for 87 yards, hitting on eight of his 17 passes.
Jermaine Green turned some heads, showing off his lightning-quick speed in a 36-yard run against the No. 1 D that featured an amazing cutback across the defense. Every coach (particularly running backs coach Kasey Dunn) is positively giddy over Green's talent. He is still having trouble adjusting to the fundamentals of the offense, but his raw talent is unquestioned. With his speed, he could be a very dangerous target out of the backfield.
Senior running back John Tippins also had a good scrimmage, carrying the ball eight times for 67 yards and knocking over his share of defensive backs. He also had a great shoestring catch on a screen pass from Kegel, turning an apparent incomplete pass into a decent gain.
Devard Darling was a bit of an enigma in Saturday's scrimmage, catching two passes for 23 yards, but he also dropped two would-be touchdown passes. One was a picture perfect toss from Gesser on a timing pattern that should have been a 35-yard touchdown pass, but the ball went right through Darling's hands in the endzone. His problem does not appear to be bad hands; rather, he seems to lose concentration periodically, much like Nakoa McElrath did at times in 2001. With a little more focus paired with his amazing ability, Darling will be darn hard to stop.
Isaac Brown and freshman Bryan Boyer had the only sacks of the day, and Brown added a fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Jeremey Williams had a great day, recording two tackles for loss and a batted down pass.All-American candidate Rien Long also turned in a strong performance. The junior defensive tackle has been a blocker's worst nightmare so far this spring.
Mark Ahlberg appears to have the inside track to the starting tight end job. He had a solid day, making two great catches for 25 yards. His only problem is that he seems a little tentative at times, and reluctant to just lower his shoulder and hit someone.
Where have you gone Alex Johnson? Tomasi Kongaika, pressed into long snapping duty due to the Johnson's graduation and Mike Isaacson quitting the team, had a tough day on punts, failing to give Kyle Basler a single good snap in six attempts. His outing reiterated the importance of incoming freshman Billy Petrick, a long snapping specialist.
When Basler was able to get his punts off, he let them fly, booming a 62-yarder that ended up in the endzone. Despite being only 19 years old, there is talk around the team that Basler is already one of the strongest kickers in the country. Built like a linebacker, he should be fun to watch making tackles on his punts in '02.
The team will resume practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and will have another scrimmage next Saturday.