I promised a blog this morning about the offense working to improve its tempo. But after the team scrimmaged this morning, I figured I would blog about that first and then blog about tempo later today.
If you weren’t following on twitter earlier today (what were you doing instead, working? Watching the Olympics? Come on, man!), the offense dominated the first session, which was devoted to red-zone situations. The defense dominated the second session, devoted to full-field situations.
Coach Bill Curry couldn’t have been happier afterward. During Tuesday’s practice, Curry called the team over and began reminding them of the 2010 Iron Bowl. In that game (sorry Alabama fans), the Tide were blowing out Auburn. In the first half, running back Mark Ingram broke into the secondary and seemed destined to score another touchdown that would put the Tide ahead 28-0. Defensive end Antoine Carter chased down Ingram and forced a fumble that the Tigers recovered. Auburn would go on to win 28-27.
During the first session of Wednesday’s practice, the offense could do little wrong. First-string quarterback Ben McLane, backup Kelton Hill and third-stringer Ronnie Bell all led scoring drives.
On the first possession of the second session, McLane misread a zone blitz. Defensive end C.J. Stephens dropped back into coverage and picked off the pass. It was McLane’s first interception and second incompletion. He went (unofficially) 6-for-7 in the first session, with the only incompletion a drop by tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi in the end zone.
On McLane’s next possession, inside linebacker Mark Hogan jumped a slant route, made the interception and returned it for a touchdown.
And then came the play of the scrimmage.
On third and short, Ogbuehi caught a short pass, broke a tackle and sprinted up the sideline. Inside linebacker Allen McKay chased down Ogbuehi, caused a fumble and the defense recovered it and returned it to the 5-yard line.
“I couldn’t have orchestrated it better for both sides: this is how it works and this is how life works,” Curry said. “It seems like nothing can stop us and you go in for the half and come out for the half and it’s like you changed uniforms. Frankly, I was very excited to see it this way, to see the defense get stronger.
“We will do a lot of teaching from this.”
Asked if the defense might have been nervous in the red-zone situations, knowing how close they were to the end zone, he said, “No. The offense executed really well and we would have scored on a lot of people.”
As odd as it might sound, other than the interceptions all three quarterbacks looked sharp. McLane’s passes were all mostly catchable. He seems to have a good connection with Danny Williams. Hill looked good running the option. He started off very accurately, including a nicely weighted touchdown pass on a crossing route, but then had a couple of overthrows. He also made some good deep passes, which is something he’s good at. Bell didn’t look sharp running the option, but he throws a catchable ball. Unofficially, McLane went 9-of-12 for 113 yards; Hill went 8-of-12 for 107 yards and Bell went 4-of-8 for 26 yards.
Whether it was the offensive line still trying to come together or the defense playing better, the running backs had a tough time in the second session. Donald Russell didn’t play much in the second session. Neither did wide receiver Albert Wilson. They didn’t seem to be injured.
Fourth-string quarterback Mark Weidenaar looked sharp and very calm for a freshman. Curry said he has a good presence on the field.
The special teams were mostly good. Matt Ehasz hit back to back 35-yard field goals. Christian Benvenuto missed a short field goal. The defense tipped a field goal, which sailed wide.
There didn’t seem to be any blown coverages in the secondary and the defensive line produced at least one sack. Melvin King had a good day, making several plays. Linemen Nermin Delic (knee) and Joe Lockley (shoulder) didn’t play because of injuries. Both looked better than in the previous two days.
– Doug Roberson, AJC