The key word for CSU during the spring football season has been “toughness.”
It was fitting, then, that the spring’s finale was a hard-hitting, defensive battle, as the Green squad defeated the Gold squad 14-9 in the annual Spring Game Saturday at Hughes Stadium.
A tougher team is probably just what the 4,631 fans in attendance, including former Rams David Anderson and Justin Holland, were looking for. CSU is coming off a 4-8 season in which it lost its final seven games to finish eighth in the Mountain West.
“Guys came out exchanging blows today,” said senior defensive tackle Erik Sandie, who posted two tackles for team Gold. “People were getting pounded and blind-sided; that was definitely a hard-hitting game right there.”
Senior quarterback Caleb Hanie led the Gold team in a losing effort, completing 10 of 14 passes for 126 yards including a 14-yard touchdown pass to George Hill on the second-to-last play of the game.
“I had fun.” said Hanie. “It’s nice to get a feel for things in a little more of a game situation. The spring game is always hard to gauge but I thought we showed our strength in the running game.”
Freshman running back John Mosure led the Green with 49 yards rushing including a 3-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Junior running back Gartrell Johnson III added 48 yards on nine carries and Aaron Sanchez ran for a second-quarter touchdown.
Sophomore running back Alex Square led the Gold with 34 yards rushing, while junior Michael Myers finished with 28 yards on 10 carries.
Senior wide receiver Luke Roberts led Green with 56 yards receiving, and senior wideout Damon Morton had 42 yards for Gold.
Other than Hanie’s late touchdown toss, which was followed by a failed two-point conversion, the Gold squad’s only points came on junior Durrell Chamorro’s field goal in the second quarter.
Head Coach Sonny Lubick gave his team a “B” grade for the day, saying he was pleased with the run game but felt the team was lacking continuity.
“We got some good things done; I think we ran the ball well,” he said. “Obviously, you have a lot of mixtures of people in there and I don’t think we ever got a rhythm going.”
Part of that lack of rhythm on offense was due to solid play from both defensive units. The Gold defense allowed 177 total yards while the Green squad allowed just 167 yards and picked up six sacks in a running-clock game.
Safeties Klint Kubiak and Mike Pagnotta as well as defensive end Jesse Nading, all starters last year, did not suit up for the spring game due to minor injuries. Nor did junior running back Kyle Bell, who said he will be ready to go “100 percent” in the fall after missing 2006 with a torn right ACL.
Bell’s injury was a major part in what was an injury-prone fall, something junior linebacker Jeff Horinek said the team desperately needs to avoid.
“I think key number one is health,” said Horinek. “We have a lot of guys getting experience and we have a lot of potential, but we’ve gotta stay healthy and be able to go out there and play hard.”
Lubick agreed, saying it will be difficult to accurately assess his team until everyone is healthy.
“As a coach you stand there and you say: ‘would we have been better with four potential starters in there?'” Lubick said. “You hope you would. We’re missing about seven guys who I think would have made us a lot better today.”
Lubick said the spring was mostly a success, and Hanie said he feels the team is ready for a better, and tougher, 2007 season.
“Now we’ve got to not forget everything we’ve learned this spring,” Hanie said. “We’re real excited to have (Bell) and some other guys back in the fall. We’ve got to keep working and improving on the toughness factor.”
Sports staff writer Jeff Dillon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.