Photo Credit: Bucknuts
Yesterday, the Scarlet beat the Gray 20-7 in front of a crowd of over 76,000 at a rainy Ohio Stadium. Courtesy of the Big Ten Network, I was able to watch the game, time-delayed, in California last night and it was great!
For those of you who don’t breathe college football, there is a spring practice session for the team that has two “game” situations, one is the jersey scrimmage where the offense goes into live play against the defense. Whomever wins gets the honor of wearing the scarlet jerseys for that year’s practice (and yes, it is a big deal to the players.) The offense won that last week. The other is the “spring game” where the players draft teams and compete against each other for a short game (11 minute quarters.)
Getting back to my regular game observations (in fact, my spring practice) is the usual, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly breakdown.
- Receivers improving - Even against a tough secondary, the receivers showed progression from last year running crisper routes and creating good separation.
- Generating turnovers - There were no fumbles forced, but two interceptions were recorded on the night, both fantastic grabs by Kurt Coleman and Ross Homan. There was only one dropped pick (a problem last year.)
- Defensive interior - Line play is tough to see in the spring, but the tackles were holding the point of the attack and very few yards came “up the gut” on running plays. Also, there seemed to be consistent penetration particularly by the tackles.
- Special teams - They weren’t so special last year, we saw some great returns, a 48 yard field goal in the rain, and only one gaff on a punt where the return man was not given a chance to catch the ball.
- No “happy feet” - QB Todd Boeckman had a bad case of happy feet by the end of last season, that was not on display yesterday. He looked in command and was sharp for the most part.
- Offensive line - This isn’t fair to point out given that it was a patchwork line due to injuries, but the defensive line had their way with the offensive line for the most part. If this were the “real” season, we’d be in trouble.
- Throwing interceptions - Boeckman threw two, one was just a great play on the ball by the safety, the other was an error not accounting for a linebacker. Henton threw one (it didn’t count, but the defender did come up with it.)
- Running game - Sure, Beanie was held out, but there wasn’t much to talk about except that redshirt freshman Danny Herron looks live, he’ll see the field this year I believe.
- Penalties - This is something that killed the Bucks in the losses to Illinois and LSU last year, they picked up right where they left off with holding in particular pushing them out of the red zone once and negating a 62 yard TD pass.
- Injuries - No fewer than 10 players were held out of the game due to injuries and linebacker Jermale Hines suffered what looked to be a season-ending knee injury on the field yesterday. It’s part of the game, but you hate to see it.
So, what to take away from the spring game? This team is loaded. It has talent and experience having lost only 2 starters on defense (Larry Grant and Vernon Gholston) and and 2 starters on offense (Kirk Barton and Dionte Johnson.) If they can minimize their mistakes (turnovers and penalties) there is an excellent chance to run through the season undefeated, even with a tough road game at USC, and reach the BCS championship game a third year in a row. If that happens, let’s hope the third time is a charm.
I can’t wait until the season! Go Bucks!