BOULDER — Though it was just the fourth practice of the spring and only the second in pads, University of Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre and his staff put the Buffaloes through a 71-play scrimmage Friday morning at Folsom Field.
The scrimmage was classified as the “50 on in” and took place in the latter half of the session, as per NCAA rules; schools are allowed to tackle over 50 percent of a practice only three times. The offense on all 12 possessions began at the 50-yard line, and in the end produced five touchdowns and a field goal.
"The quarterbacks did really well, moved in the pocket and did some really good things,” MacIntyre said. “They knew they weren't going to be hit, so they had a little more time, but overall they did some good things."
"This was just an abbreviated scrimmage, we made it really hard on the defense by putting the ball on the 50 every drive,” he continued. “We will do some more things backed up the rest of the spring. We were really scripted today, we got a lot of red zone work done, so that was an enormous amount of pressure on the defense. The offense did really well, the defense didn't do as well as I would've liked.”
Sophomore quarterbacks Sefo Liufau and Jordan Gehrke had nearly identical statistics, Gehrke leading six possessions and Liufau four; reserve walk-on Trent Sessions managed the other two. Gehrke completed 12-of-17 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown (168.1 rating), while Liufau was 7-of-11 for 108 and a score (176.1 rating); neither was intercepted.
Of the 65 plays from scrimmage, 33 were designed rushes and 32 passes (including three quarterback sacks); the other six were placement kicks in the session, which lasted all of 48 minutes and once again saw CU run an up-tempo offense. MacIntyre was one of nearly 100 coaches who came out against the proposed rule change to keep offenses from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had run off the 40-second clock. The Buffs snapped the ball quite often a second or two on either side of that mark Friday.
"I have to go watch the film, we'll go back and evaluate and look at different schemes,” MacIntyre said. “Nelson (Spruce) did good, he made some plays, Bryce Bobo made some plays at receiver that stuck out but I'll watch the linemen and see who made people miss and who tackled well, that kind of thing."
Spruce caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, Bobo had two for 29; Wes Christensen led all in yards with two for 79, one where he broke free from two tacklers and darted 31 yards into the end zone.
Tony Jones paced the running game with 37 yards on six carries, including a 24-yard sprint for a touchdown. Phillip Lindsay and Donta Abron both added short 1-yard runs for scores. The Buffs were minus their top two runners from last fall, Christian Powell who is out following a pre-spring knee scope and Michael Adkins, who suffered a slight ankle sprain on Wednesday.
"Phillip did well today, he fumbled once, he can't do that,” MacIntyre said. “His quickness and speed and hitting the hole was good. He'll just get better and better, I was pleased with him other than the fumble."
Defensively, last fall’s leading tackler, Addison Gillam, picked up where he left off. Gillam set the school record for tackles by a freshman with 119, which included 15 third down stops and 21 stops at or behind the line of scrimmage; he had a team-high eight tackles Friday.
"Addison did well today, he's a little bigger and stronger so I'm hoping he pops the guys back a little more and causes more turnovers,” MacIntyre said. “I didn't see anything glaring he did wrong. He can be quicker to recognize, have more opportunities to make turnovers, fumbles and turnovers. I expect him to force more turnovers, he was close to making a lot more of those so if his recognition is better, he'll start making those plays. He made a bunch of tackles, now he needs the turnover side to get to the next level.”
A few experimental position moves always are the norm in spring ball, and perhaps the most noticeable was sophomore Clay Norgard lining up at defensive tackle, despite his smallish 6-foot-0, 240-pound frame.
"We will keep Clay at defensive tackle,” Mac said. “He played that in high school, we need to beef him up a little bit. Against spread football teams when they're throwing it all the time, they won’t be doubling him all the time so he's natural in there. When we're playing teams that will pound you, he won't be in there as much. But when it's one-on-one, pass rush, stunting and moving him, he'll be hard to block and give us an inside pass rush.”
“We may move Tyler Henington outside to defensive end a little more, he's running better and quicker, MacIntyre said of the junior, who is some 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight last fall. “Against some teams we can move him in and out. Against teams with big tight ends, he's 260 but hopefully can give us some good leverage.
Two others shined at defensive end: senior Juda Parker had six solo stops including two tackles for loss and a forced fumble, while redshirt frosh Derek McCartney registered two quarterback sacks, on one on third down.
The placekickers, Will Oliver, Chris Graham and Diego Gonzalez made all six of their kicks, all extra points sans a 38-yard field goal by Graham. There was no other live kicking in the scrimmage.
The Buffs will scrimmage two more times, on March 21 and April 4, ahead other spring game at Folsom Field; the latter is set for Saturday, April 12 with a Noon start. The Pac-12 Networks will televise the game.