For the second time in two scrimmages this week, the No. 1 defensive unit shut down the vaunted first-string Cougar offense. And this one was more head-turning than Wednesday's affair, because the top two units faced off on a whopping 40 snaps.
Quarterback Jason Gesser, who struck a stylish full-color Heisman pose in this week's Sporting News, looked more K mart than Nieman Marcus, completing just 9 of 25 passes for 69 yards. Worse, he was harassed into a pair of interceptions -- both by cornerback David. The first was a diving catch and the second was caught in stride and returned 60 yards. The ground game also was ground to a halt.
How bad was it for the mighty O?
This bad: David's touchdown was one more than the No. 1 Cougar offense could muster on this day.
Head coach Mike Price said he was struck by the D's "visciousness."
The defensive line, rightly considered one of the finest in the land, appears to be even deeper than expected because Tomasi Kongaika, an honorable mention all-conference performer in 2000 before blowing his knee a year ago, looks to be back at 100 percent. He penetrated the pocket several times Saturday and generally gave the OL fits.
Brown, who notched 9.5 sacks in 2001, spent much of the day in the offensive backfield --- a fact made all the more impressive because he had to get by left tackle Josh Parrish (no slouch himself) to do it.
The linebacking corps continues to do well, showing great speed, which may help make up for their lack of size and experience. Every one of top six guys flies to the ball, sideline to sideline. Although the defensive line will be the strength of the team, the LBs should carry their weight. JC tranfser Don Jackson, currently running with the No. 2 unit, is one guy to watch.
ONE OFFENSIVE GEM
Neither of the Cougars' top three QBs --- Gesser, Matt Kegel and Chris Hurd --- managed a scoring strike. But strong-armed freshman fourth-stringer Josh Swogger did. The youngster from Ohio hit JC walk-on Brett Johnson on a 3-yard TD pass in his first drive. More impressive, though, was how the score was set up -- an eye-popping 61-yard pass from Swogger to Johnson.
Swogger, rolling left in the pocket, threw the ball almost effortlessly about 40 yards downfield to Johnson, who actually fumbled when he was tackled at the 3 but was able to recover.
At a solid 6-foot-5, Swogger looks like he could be the real deal. He has great pocket presence for a freshman, throws a great spiral and has a very strong arm. The 2004 season could very interesting, as he and redshirt freshman urd will battle it out for the starting job.
The only other offensive touchdown came on a 78-yard reverse to receiver Jevon Miller, who had several great cutbacks as he sliced through the No. 2 defense. Miller, a converted running back, is shaping up to be a very capable receiving target. Though he won't be utilized much this year with the plethora of talented receivers the Cougs already have, he looks like he will be an important part of the offense for years to come.
The running game was nearly nonexistent, as the offense's leading rusher, John Tippins, had only 20 yards on six carries. On only a few of the team's rushes did the ball carrier have much of a hole. This is fairly understandable, though, as it often takes the offensive line a while to mesh as a run-blocking unit, not to mention they're facing a pretty stout front four in the No. 1 defense. Jonathon Smith did have three catches for 25 yards, and was fairly effective when he ran the ball, rushing four times for 16 yards.
With Gesser's favorite targets, Mike Bush and Jerome Riley, out with dings, Collin Henderson had more passes thrown his way Saturday, catching three balls for 42 yards. For the offense to be as effective as it can be, Gesser will need to spread the ball around, and those numbers likely will be typical each week for Henderson, the team's possession receiver.
The Cougars have another scrimmage scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in Martin Stadium.
After two weeks of practicing in the mornings and then in the cooler evenings, the team will spend all next week practicing in the morning and afternoon, getting acclimated to the heat they'll likely be playing in the first four weeks of the season.
Tranfers tight end Eddie Robinson has had several practices with the team, and although he did not play much in the scrimmage, he has looked impressive. With good size and good hands, look for him to get in the mix at Wednesday's scrimmage. Right now, Troy Bienemann is the front-runner for the starting TE spot, but true freshman Jesse Taylor and redshirt sophomore Mark Ahlberg are lurking. Adam West is out with an injury for at least three weeks.
Third-string offensive lineman Steve Nelson suffered a knee injury last week is figures to miss at least six weeks.