Apr 162009
Authors: Sean Star

A little more than two years ago John Mosure ran the ball nine times for 49 yards with one touchdown to help the Green team defeat the Gold squad in the annual spring football game.

Though Mosure is still here, competing to fill the starting running back position left vacant by Gartrell Johnson, the classic Green and Gold Game is long gone.

Last year coach Steve Fairchild changed the format, ditching the traditional intrasquad scrimmage for an offense-versus-defense matchup.

So instead of a glorified scrimmage, Saturday’s spring game – weather permitting – will again be more of a glorified practice. Thrilling, I know.

To declare a winner, the team has devised a unique scoring “matrix.” (A matrix that can incredibly decide a winner in a game involving only one complete team.)

Last year the matrix apparently decided that four interceptions by the defense were enough to beat the offense’s lone touchdown, 49-35.

A similar format will be used this weekend, which means fans will again be clueless as to who is supposedly winning the “game.”

Even for the players, the matrix is somewhat of a mystery.

“It always comes up, ” said senior offensive lineman Adrian Martinez. “But as long as there’s always a clear winner, it’s not a big deal. We’re all on the same team.”

Therein lies the problem: there’s too much of this ‘same team’-ness going on — at least from a fan’s perspective.

But from Fairchild’s perspective, pitting the best players against each other benefits the program the most. And based on last year’s progress, it’s hard to argue against what benefits the program the most.

“I think when you split it up, you’re too thin,” Fairchild said. “. I like going 1s on 1s because it gets our best tackle against our best defensive lineman, and then you get more continuity in your play.”

So then, other than the free pancake breakfast, why should fans even bother showing up to Hughes?

“I think they’ll see some good football. They’ll see some live tackling. They’ll see some guys competing. It’ll be entertaining, we’ll move the ball and keep the score, offense versus defense,” Fairchild said. “I think it’s fun. If you like football, you’ll like it. It’s a better product than, like I said, at this point in our program splitting up our team.”

So while the fan-friendliness may not be up to par, the product should be. A product that, based on initial returns, is getting better by the week. And if the spring game turning into a glorified practice is what it takes for that product to continue to improve, that’s one pill Ram fans will have to swallow.

Fairchild has a plan, and so far things have gone accordingly.

In addition to a more advanced playbook and a higher dedication to offseason workouts, a change in the spring game is just one of the many ways Fairchild has put his stamp on the program — stamps that were definitely needed.

As for the “game” on Saturday, my money’s on the offense. No matter who’s the quarterback, the strength of the team this weekend, and next fall, should be the offensive line. The senior-laden unit returns all its parts from last year and should provide plenty of production on the ground.

That experience has Martinez feeling plenty confident for Saturday, and rightfully so.

“That D-line and linebacking corps, I hope they’re ready,” Martinez said jokingly, “because all of us on the O-line are ready to go.”

Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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