It may have only been a scrimmage, but the Rams’ offense on Saturday got plenty of positive signs.
The offense scored on seven of nine drives, got solid production from starting senior quarterback Caleb Hanie, and senior running back Kyle Bell-back from a season-ending knee injury a year ago-broke a 49-yard touchdown run during the team’s Green and White scrimmage.
Coach Sonny Lubick said he was especially impressed with the physical presence of the running game, which averaged a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry in 2006.
“The running game is a real plus for us,” Lubick said. “We came out today and wanted to kind of get that mentality and get physical on offense.”
Junior running backs Michael Myers and Gartrell Johnson III each ran for touchdowns, and freshman John Mosure broke several long runs, including a 25-yard rush on the sixth offensive series.
But the highlight of the day for the run game, and the team in general, was Bell’s touchdown sprint.
“It feels great to open up and see some daylight,” Bell said of the run. “To get that chance, it’s just a confidence thing to know I can get in a game situation and hit the holes like that.”
Offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt said Bell’s explosive run was a relief to see.
“We were waiting on one of those,” he said. “He hadn’t had one yet where he just broke through like that.”
Bell said the key to the play was the offensive line, which “made it look easy.”
Playing with the first-team line most of the day were tackles Brian Lepak and Dane Stratton, guards Shelley Smith and Scott Benedict and center Nick Allotta, though Lubick said there are eight or nine guys in the running for a starting spot.
“It’s improving,” said Lubick of the line. “I think if we can just make a jump in this next eight or nine practices like we did in the last nine practices, it just makes those 2-yard gains all of a sudden 4- or 5-yard gains, and that’s when you become a good offense.”
Senior wide receiver Damon Morton, who ran a reverse for a 20-yard touchdown during the team’s eighth series, was also complimentary of the group.
“Our offensive line, they’ve been working really hard and it showed up today,” Morton said. “I don’t know what coach fed them, or said to them, but they came out ready to play.”
With all of the offensive highlights from the scrimmage, the one big downside to the day was the performance of the defense.
Though the first-team unit managed a 3-and-out early in the scrimmage, most of the day was spent watching the offense do as it wished.
“Defensive-wise it was pretty bad today, they scored pretty much every time,” said senior defensive back Darryl Williams. “They were just running it down our throats.”
Williams said the key to the team’s defensive success this year is slowing down the running game, something it clearly struggled to do Saturday.
But Lubick said he wasn’t too concerned with the defensive performance.
“The offense came out and just hit them in the mouth,” Lubick said. “(The defense) will get scrutinized a little, but it was good to see the offense come out the way they did.”
The scrimmage is the finale of the team’s fall camp, which means normal in-season practices begin today. The team will practice daily from 3:45 to 6 p.m. in preparation for its season opener Sept. 1 against CU in Denver at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Penalties – 3 for 25 yards
Kicking game – Jason Smith 3/3 PATs, 3/5 FG (25, 34, and 37 yards)
Plays of the game –
RB Kyle Bell broke a 49-yard touchdown run off the right tackle in the fifth offensive drive, weaving through and running away from the first-string defense on his way to the end zone.
WR Damon Morton took a reverse handoff from RB Gartrell Johnson late in the scrimmage, breaking it around the right end for a touchdown.
Penalties – 2 for 10 yards
3-and-Outs – 1, the third offensive drive
Play of the game –
DB Ivory Herd intercepted a long throw to the front corner of the end zone from sophomore QB Grant Stucker, ending a late offensive drive.
Other – The offense scored on seven of its nine drives, including four touchdowns and three field goals.
Key Injuries – OT Cole Pemberton left the scrimmage with a minor ankle injury, FS Klint Kubiack (groin), OG Adrian Martinez (knee), OT Mark Starr (ankle) and DE Wade Landers (ankle) were held out of the scrimmage