A good send off

For the Buff Nation, which is about to endure four months of reading about how poorly their team will fare this fall, there were some positives to take from the 2010 Spring game.

Played before an announced Folsom Field crowd of 9,100, the Gold team, led by junior Tyler Hansen, defeated the Black team, led by senior Cody Hawkins, 37-27. Both quarterbacks did well statistically, with Hansen completing 17-of-22 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns, and Hawkins hitting on 20-of-26 for 220 yards and two scores. The longest offensive plays of the day came late, as red-shirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman hit senior Andre Simmons for an 83-yard Gold team score with 3:29 remaining, and backup quarterback/wide receiver Seth Lobato scored on a 65-yard scramble for the Black team as time expired.

“They finished up on a really good note, and had a pretty good spring,” Dan Hawkins said.

While the two teams posted 64 points in the forty-minute game, the point total is somewhat deceiving. After three quarters of play, the score stood at 17-7, Gold, with both teams posting 20 points apiece in the furious final ten minutes.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Black team drew first blood on a two-yard touchdown run by Quentin Hildreth, capping an eight-play, 75-yard drive aided by penalties against the Gold team for roughing the passer and pass interference in the end zone. The Gold team responded in its next drive, covering 65 yards in ten plays, with Tyler Hansen hitting red-shirt freshman tight end DaVaughn Thornton from 15 yards out. The Gold team took the lead for good just before halftime, as Hansen connected with Jason Espinoza on a 14-yard scoring pass with three seconds left before the break.

The only score of the third quarter was a 45-yard field goal by junior walk-on kicker Marcus Kirkwood. The 52-yard drive by the Gold team took 14 plays, and chewed up over seven minutes of the ten-minute third quarter.

The stage was now set for a 40-point fourth quarter.

Cody Hawkins connected with sophomore wide receiver Will Jefferson for a 17-yard score to pull the Black team to within a field goal at 17-14, with 9:46 still to play. The Gold team quickly responded, marching quickly down the field with gains of 13,14, 17, and 16 yards, culminated on a second touchdown connection between Hansen and Thornton, this time covering 14 yards. 24-14, Gold.

It took only six plays for the Black team to respond, with Cody Hawkins hitting left tackle Nate Solder from a yard out to make the score 24-21 with 3:57 to play. “Wasn’t that great? It was so much fun,” Solder said of his touchdown. “We were supposed to run it all season … we finally got the chance.”

With Nick Hirschman now at the helm, and the Gold team nursing a three-point lead, the Black defense appeared poised to give their offense the ball back with time for a come-from-behind win. Backed up to the 17-yard line, the Gold faced a third-and-thirteen. The game was put away when Hirschman then hit wide receiver Andre Simmons for a game-changing score. The senior caught the ball at the Black 42-yard line, then did the rest himself, completing an 83-yard touchdown, giving the Gold a 31-21 lead.

Both teams scored late touchdowns. After an interception was thrown by Black’s Seth Lobato, Nick Hirschman and Corey Nabors combined for five runs covering 42 yards, with Nabors doing the honors from three yards out with 22 seconds to play. On the game’s final play, Seth Lobato atoned for his interception, scrambling for 65 yards and a touchdown as time expired.

38-27, Gold over Black.

“I liked it a lot … it was more competitive,” tight end DaVaughn Thornton said of the format where the players chose their own teams. “When you can go out there and pick your teams, get the draft going, get a little trash-talking going on, it’s great.” Tyler Hansen agreed, though he may have gone a bit overboard when he said the pre-game atmosphere “felt like Nebraska”.

The atmosphere was enhanced in part due to the Gold team’s “Haka dance”. The pre-game ritual, regularly performed by (September opponent) Hawaii, was the idea of linebacker B.J. Beatty and offensive lineman Sione Tau. The Gold team met for an hour on Friday to practice, then again for another 30 minutes on Saturday morning. “I told them we were only going to do this if you guys are fully into it because to me it’s something you have to respect. It’s a war dance,” Beatty said. “The guys did a really good job. They were really respectful to it. It looked really good, and I was excited doing it.” The Black team, most aware of what was coming, responded to the dance by laying down on the ground and turning their backs.

There were no major injuries reported Saturday, though running back Brian Lockridge played only the first half (11 carries for 38 yards) before his injured knee stiffened. Kicker Aric Goodman underwent surgery to his right hip on Saturday. The surgery went well, but it will be August at the earliest before Goodman will be allowed back onto the playing field.

The question of the starting quarterback remains undecided.

Tyler Hansen was placed atop the post-spring depth chart, but that, as always, is subject to change. Asked about the depth chart, Dan Hawkins would only allow, “We’ll figure that out when we get closer to Colorado State.” Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau did indicate that spring personnel evaluations would be taking place this week, but there were no guarantees about naming a number one quarterback. “We’ll sit down, look at the pros and cons and decide what is best for the football team,” Kiesau said. “If we can decide it next Tuesday, great. If we think we need to wait until fall camp, we’ll do that. And I’m not trying to be vague or get around the question, that’s just what we’re going to do.”

Spring awards

The Buffs also announced their spring awards this weekend. The Eddie Crowder award for outstanding leadership went to seniors Cody Hawkins and Scotty McKnight, as well as junior safety Anthony Perkins. The Most Improved Offensive Back award went to running back Quentin Hildreth, the Most Improved Offensive Lineman award was shared by junior David Clark and red-shirt freshman Jack Harris. The Most Improved Defensive Back award went to red-shirt freshman Parker Orms, with sophomore Nick Kasa earning the Most Improved Defensive Lineman award. The Most Improved Special Teams player award went to red-shirt freshman punter/kicker Zach Grossnickle.

Other awards – Outstanding Work Ethic: junior defensive end David Goldberg; Outstanding Toughness: junior running back Brian Lockridge; Attention to Detail: quarterback Tyler Hansen and left tackle Nate Solder; and Outstanding Academic Performance: junior safety Travis Sandersfeld.

Game Stats

– Only one player on defense hit double digits in tackles, red-shirt freshman safety/nickel back Parker Orms, who had ten. Orms also had the only sack for the Gold team. The Black team was led on defense by linebacker Michael Sipili, who registered eight tackles. Three other Black team members – linebacker Derrick Webb, safety Anthony Perkins, and cornerback Jimmy Smith – all registered six tackles.

– Only two field goals were attempted. Junior walk-on Marcus Kirkwood hit from 45 yards out for the Gold team, with Zach Grossnickle missing from 39 yards out for the Black team. Four kickers went 7-for-8 on PAT’s, with walk-on Sean Minett registering the only miss (there was no PAT attempt after the Lobato touchdown as time expired). Zach Grossnickle handled the punting chores for both teams, kicking three times for a 38.7 yard average.

– There was only one interception by either defense, with Gold team member Jalil Brown picking off a pass from Seth Lobato in the fourth quarter. There was only one fumble, by Gold’s Corey Nabors in the first quarter. Michael Sipili forced the fumble, which was recovered by Arthur Jaffee.

– The Black team committed six penalties, for 70 yards; while the Gold team was flagged three times for 12 yards.

– The two teams combined to go nine-for-nine in redzone opportunities, and went 9-for-15 on third down conversion attempts.

The Final Word

“Confidence is always a combination of little successes,” head coach Dan Hawkins said. “Any time you catch the ball or move the ball or complete the ball or run the ball, that gives those guys a little bit more feeling towards what they can get done.”

The Buffs are now off for off-season conditioning and “voluntary” workouts and drills. The next official act for the players will be reporting on August 4th, with fall practices commencing August 5th. The Buffs will have several weeks of practice before classes start August 23rd. The kickoff for the Colorado State game is noon on Saturday, September 4th, in Denver.

3 Replies to “A Spring in their Steps”

  1. I gotta say that I really enjoyed watching this game on Buff TV. There seemed to be much more intensity than you’d typically see in a spring game. These are my (albeit ignorant) observations:

    1. I’m glad to see the offense improve, but can’t help but to wonder about the defense. What’s up with Cefalo hauling in 12 receptions for 144 yards (I didn’t even know who this guy was until a couple of days ago)? For that matter how were the receivers so prolific without the services of Simas and McKnight? Shouldn’t D-line have dominated the O-line with Givens and Miller out?

    2. I love the idea of placing Soldier at TE in goalline situations. He could cause some serious matchup problems.

    3. Is it just me or did the gold O-line look much better than the black O-line? They even seemed to have a bit a power game going. Bakhtiari’s blind side protection was a pleasant surprise.

  2. Note to Dan… Name a starting QB now and let the team rally around him. Quit trying to be tricky all of the time. These kids need some stability and we all know they’re not getting it from your “pound the ball this year, throw on every down next year” offenses.

  3. Now it is wait and see. My only real hope is that Hansen is the QB. I think he is the best option at the position. We all saw how he improved with game experience. I think Cody is a fine young man but unfortunately for him, he does not possess the physical attributes needed to play at this level.

    I am disappointed to see, what seems to be, every back we have trying to leave the program. The must see some writing on the wall with this “new” offense. Again, wait and see. We seem to change offenses every year. No wonder the players don’t perform.

    Enough. It is baseball season. As a Cubs fan, hope springs eternal. Seems like the same kind of patience is required to be a Buffs fan.

    Phil

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