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Spaulding Roundup: Defense Steps Up

This weekend, it was Jordan doing this to one of his teammates...
This weekend, it was Jordan doing this to one of his teammates...

After a short day of practice on Friday and a Saturday off, the Bruins returned to Spaulding Field for a full-on practice, capped off by a 70-play scrimmage. Offensive stats are available at the official site. As opposed to the past scrimmages where the Offense had the upper hand, Sunday was the defense's time to shine, allowing just a field goal to the first-team offense, and a touchdown for the second-team. Whether Sunday was a real step forward for the D, or simply an off-day by the offense, the coaches were pleased to see the effort and result from that side of the ball.

"I thought our defense really responded to some of the challenges from the offense's success from Thursday," Neuheisel said. "I was pleased with the way they kept us out of the end zone. It was a great defensive day. The intensity was what we needed."

Fittingly, the signature play of the afternoon came when Jordan Zumwalt stopped Malcolm Jones hard on a short-yardage rush attempt. 'Stopped hard' may actually be an understatement of the hit.

... sent Jones crashing to the turf as if Jones had just run into a brick wall.

It produced a roar of approval from teammates and served as an example of the defensive intensity and fundamental tackling skills that new defensive coordinator Joe Tresey has been loudly preaching during practices. And it got Zumwalt some bragging rights with his good friend Jones.

"I'm going to tell him I blasted him, and he'll say I didn't," Zumwalt said.

The struggles on offense did seem to be a true team affair, according to reports. Gold noted that the offensive line was never really able to establish itself against the defense yesterday - true of both squads - as well as lingering timing issues with long passes. Considering the type of play calling last season, I imagine these players really are out of practice in that aspect of the game. The OC Register also noted the struggles of an O-line dealing with injuries to 3 key players, while passing along Neuheisel's concerns about too many unforced errors by the QB's.

Neuheisel also lauded the defensive line, but not without bemoaning his quarterbacks' "unforced errors," noting they missed too many open receivers. Brehaut, who had played his best football of the spring in live-action settings, went 4 of 8 for 38 yards, and Brett Hundley went 6 for 13 for 62 yards with one interception.

While this was not the best day of the Spring for the quarterbacks, the coaches did see some bright spots out of Brett Hundley's performance on Sunday. According to Coach Johnson, he practiced well during the afternoon and was making plays that he was not able to pull off even in the early practices. Coach Neuheisel also noted his instincts developing.

"Brett doesn't get fazed very often," Neuheisel said. "I thought Brett had a great day. He did things that are a part of the offense and he did things instinctively."

One issue that Hundley did face, which affected the offense's performance was struggles in the center-QB exchange. With the attrition in the offensive line ranks, the coaches have had to promote up from the second team to the first, and from the scout team to the second team. This necessity seems to have factored in to some of the struggles.

With the practices winding down, Sunday's scrimmage was intended to shift the balance of the attention more toward the running game. While Hundley did his job on the ground, the Bruin running backs were able to squeeze out a few more carries in this session. Anthony Barr again saw time at running back, while Johnathan Franklin led the team in rushing, and Jordon James also has a nice day leading the second team.

While the special teams have not gotten much attention during this practice season, the heir apparent to Kai, Kip Smith had a rough go of it on Sunday. missing 3 of his 4 field goal attempts.

Nelson Rosario missed all of Sunday's practice, while Randall Carroll missed the second half of the session in order to compete in the UCLA Track & Field team's dual meet with Oregon. Rosario finished 3rd in the Long Jump, and Carroll placed 2nd in the 100 meter dash and was part of the victorious 4x100 meter relay team, with the Bruins finishing the day tied with the Ducks.

The Bruins will return to practice on Tuesday, and will hold their final practice of the Spring at Spaulding Field on Thursday afternoon before completing the Spring practice season on Saturday with the Spring Game at Drake Stadium.