Spring Game wrap

With a glimmer of spring showing itself earlier in the week, the cold hit once again Saturday for Washington's annual spring game.

But for the 3,000 or so die-hards in attendance, they got a chance to see some things that may or may not give them some warmth as the Huskies move into their summer conditioning regimen. The brisk temps did nothing to take away from a spirited, 100-plus play scrimmage that ended up with 21 points for the Purple squad and 19 for the Whites.

A bunch of former Huskies were in attendance, including Marques Tuiasosopo, Larry Tripplett, Jerramy Stevens, Toure Butler, Paul Arnold, Ben Mahdavi, Jafar Williams and Taylor Barton were some of the 'old dawgs' seen checking things out.

Some 'new dawgs' were also there. Signees Bobby Whithorne, Quintin Daniels, Chad Macklin, Sonny Shackelford, Juan Garcia, Cody Ellis, Tahj Bomar, Kyle Trew, Casey Tyler and Anthony Russo were spotted on the sidelines, seeing what they have ahead of them this fall.

UW Head Coach Rick Neuheisel divided his offenses and defenses up into 'Purple' and 'White' squads, not necessarily by 'string'. This way the teams had decent balance and a lot of players got to show their stuff in front of the Husky faithful.

A few new wrinkles were added. Like Tuesday's 30-minute 'live' scrimmage, the backup QB's were open to hits and sacks. Also a new wrinkle for Saturday's game was the inclusion of the 'Green Machine', a walk-on laden crew specifically put together to handle special teams chores.

Cody Pickett quarterbacked the purple squad to an early 7-0 lead with a methodical 9-play, 36-yard drive, capped off with a Chris Singleton one-yard burst off tackle. The White defense, led by Joe Lobendahn, Greg Carothers (wearing 25 for the first time live since the late Curtis Williams) and Jerome Stevens, killed any chances they had to stop Pickett with 3 offsides penalties.

It's clear that new co-defensive coordinator Phil Snow is teaching aggressive play, but his charges were a little too aggressive in coming out of the blocks. He was visibly vocal and charged up the whole scrimmage and took the D aside during a 7-minute 'halftime' break to go over what they did right and wrong.

Pickett finished the day 10-20 for 131 yards and 1 touchdown. He also had 2 interceptions. Stanback went 4-9 for 81 yards and 1 TD with one pick, while Paus went 6-12 for 81 yards.

Shelton Sampson looked strong in his first spring, and the 5-11, 175-pound RB from Tacoma handled both the running and receiving chores with aplomb. On the White's second possession, Shelton took an Isaiah Stanback screen pass and sprinted down the sideline untouched for a 53-yard touchdown. The PAT was blocked, but the White team was on the board, 7-6.

Sampson has three catches in total for 72 yards to go with his 40 rushing yards on the day.

The Green Machine's first 'live' work against the #1 return men, Charles 'ET' Frederick and Roc Alexander, was a stomach-turner. Roc took the kick at his own 8 with 1:32 left in the first quarter and proceeded to slice and dice the walk-ons for a 92-yard score, putting the purple up 14-6 with an Evan Knudson PAT.

The Purple team would hold their lead until 6:24 left in the third quarter, when the White team, led by Casey Paus, moved 34 yards in 8 plays. Knudson, solid all spring long, nailed a 39-yard field goal to cut the Purple lead to 5, 14-9.

Paus, the 6-5, 215-pound redshirt soph from New Lenox, Illinois, was effective, if unspectacular. In a battle with Stanback for the backup QB job, Isaiah showed flashes of brilliance, including a 17-yard option keeper for 6, putting the White team up momentarily, 16-14, with 3:14 left in the 3rd quarter.

But Isaiah wasn't without his foibles either. On another option play in the third quarter Isaiah made an ill-advised pitch-pass to Scott Ballew that earned a very loud 'Isaiah!' from Neuheisel. But there's no question he creates excitement when he's out there, and watching Paus and Stanback battle is certainly a tale of two very different styles.

Defensively, Jimmy Newell, Greg Carothers and Scott White had exceptional games. White, a 6-2, 235-pound WIL from San Diego, benefited greatly from an aggressive Joe Lobendahn, cleaning up on every play inside the tackles. White led the defense with 8 tackles and also had an interception off of Pickett in the 3rd quarter.

Walk-on linebacker Ben Warren had seven tackles, as well as DT Jerome Stevens.

Newell and Carothers set the tempo from a hitting standpoint, with 3 blasts each. Jimmy rocked Reggie Williams deep on a long sidelines pattern, causing the ball to pop up. Roc Alexander was more than happy to pick off the low-hanging fruit and take the ball back 42 yards. He also was involved in arguably the best defensive play of the game.

Cory Jones got his big hands on an Isaiah Stanback pass and he just couldn't get a grip on the hot potato. Out of nowhere, Newell sprints in and snags the ball out of the air in full stride with a 5-yard return.

The 6-1, 195-pound safety from Port Orchard has been doing his part this spring to stay healthy, while putting some receivers' health at risk with his aggressive and physical play.

Carothers, wearing the coveted 25, did his part as well and showed that he's well on his way getting comfortable learning a new position. The 'Helena Hitman' is playing a lot closer to the line of scrimmage, and it shows in the number of tackles he's been racking up.

Even though Pickett wasn't 'live' Saturday, that didn't stop the White DL from putting their share of sacks on the TFL column. Terry Johnson (two), Manase Hopoi (three) and Graham Lasee all put their 'touches' on Cody, while Jerome Stevens (two) and Brandon Ala got after Paus. 'Sauce' Stevens really put pressure up front, racking up 7 stops and a tackle for loss to with his two sacks.

Wide receiver was a quiet spot Saturday, with Reggie Williams' 27-yard catch and dash from Pickett being the lone bright spot on the day. Reggie finished with 70 yards on 5 catches, while Frederick only had 1 grab for 9 yards.

Jon Lyon, Andy Heater and Ben Bandel stood out today for the tight ends, each with one catch.

The running back situation was unsettled coming into Saturday's game, and pretty much stayed that way. Ballew emerged as an all-purpose player who can play running back, be split out wide and also be an effective punt and kickoff returner. Scott, despite playing most of the 4th quarter with reserves, showed a nice slashing touch and good strength. The frosh from Austin, Texas ended up with 35 yards on 13 carries and one catch for 12 yards.

Sampson and Chris Singleton both had moments where they made something out of nothing, but the running game didn't provide the real spark it needed to. Respect is a ways away for both, as well as the opportunity to supplant incumbant Rich Alexis, still nursing a shoulder injury.

Speaking of those in red, there were 11 players that did not participate in Saturday's game: Sam Cunningham (shoulder), Kenny James (knee), Rich Alexis (shoulder), Tim Galloway (shoulder), Josh Miller (back), Todd Bachert (shoulder), Justin Robbins (knee), Joe Toledo (shoulder), Marquis Cooper (shoulder), Donny Mateaki (shoulder) and Junior Coffin (stinger).

Notes:
Snapper tryout: Owen Biddle, Andy Heater, Jason Benn and Mike Thompson all took turns doing some long snapping Saturday, but the punting itself left a LOT to be desired. To say incoming frosh Sean Douglas has the job is an understatement.

Backups galore: With over 100 plays, 4th string QB Felix Sweetman had nearly the entire 4th quarter to himself, and did very well. The 6-2, 240-pounder from Lakewood dished out some punishment and looked good throwing the ball. He had an 17-yard option keeper and a 21-yard strike to frosh TE Dash Crutchley to end the game.

Kicking challenge?: Evan Knudson was perfect for the day with 2 field goals and 3 extra points. Will he challenge incoming frosh Mike Braunstein? The junior from Lacey has done everything the Husky coaches have asked of him.

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