Let me start by saying I rarely get excited about the spring game.
Mostly, I leave without a sense of whether one side of the ball was very good, or one was bad. From a journalistic standpoint, I get no better blog content from a scrimmage that lasts 30 minutes or one that lasts an hour.
There is great value to fans (and writers) in seeing a highly touted player for the first time. But that doesn't happen in the spring game, either. True freshmen are rarely on campus by then. The returning underclassmen, if good enough, have already seen the field.
Now that I'm done whining, here are some notes from the day...
It was cold outside. Some white stuff was intermittently falling from the sky, but I'm not sure if I'd call it snow. Regardless, it was not a pleasant day to watch a football scrimmage outdoors. Attendance reflected that. No one sat on the east side of the stadium. A maximum of 500, by my estimate, sat on the west side. There were, however, quite a bit of people in the club level. The university announced attendance of 1805, which caused Tom Gaffney to quip: "Were they counting asscheeks?"
Alex Allen busted around the left end to score a long touchdown in the first half. He is looking really good. The question is, are there enough weapons in the passing game to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box?
The point system for this offense-versus-defense game is odd. For example, the defense gets three points when the offense misses a field goal. The offense gets two points for every "explosive play," defined as a 10-yard rush or 15-yard pass. Apparently, Syracuse uses a similar plan. Let's keep it real: At the end of the game, who really cares about the score?
Eighteen players missed the game with injuries. Eighty-three are on the roster. No one was hurt during the game, however.
Almondo Sewell appears to have much more freedom to make plays within the 4-3 scheme. He made a few tackles and a sack (which scores two points for the defense). The Defensive Player of the Game Award was a toss-up between him, Brian Wagner (fumble recovery, several tackles) and Manley Waller (six tackles, two pass break-ups). The media (a.k.a. me, Gaffney and Evan Meyer) gave it to Waller.
The Offensive Player of the Game was Jeremy LaFrance, who caught two deep touchdown passes from Patrick Nicely. He said the atmosphere within the receiving corps is a lot different this year. "We don't have too many leaders in the group," LaFrance said, adding that assistant coach Frisman Jackson asked him to step into a leadership role. Jalil Carter looked good today. They will need at least one more player to contribute for the passing game to be a real threat. That could be Nadir Brown, Curtis Brown, Gary Pride or one of the true freshmen.
Aside from those two passes, Nicely did not look sharp. There were at least two fumbles on the snap under center. Nicely has taken shotgun snaps all his life. "I've never been under center," he said. "It sounds elementary, but it's really complex." Despite that, Nicely felt the game has slowed down for him and that the team has progressed throughout the spring. Coach Rob Ianello gave Nicely a mixed review: "Sometimes he got flushed (from the pocket). Sometimes he made some nice throws. Sometimes he forced a few."
Ianello reaffirmed his commitment to holding a quarterback competition in the fall. He did not rule out having both players earn minutes. "It's going to be wide open in all fairness to Matt (Rodgers) and in all fairness to the team," Ianello said. Discussing Rodgers, the coach said: "Matt is very cerebral. He'll have to transfer that from the classroom to the field." Ideally, the staff hopes that one player will separate himself from the other. Nicely is looking forward to the competition and to "showing I'm the better person for the job," the sophomore said.
The offense was horrible in the second half. Despite the offense always having the ball it only scored one point in the third quarter. Mind you, the offense gets a point simply by achieving a first down. "Maybe it was the break in the intermission," Ianello said. "They couldn't get back on top of their game. It was not a good offensive third quarter."
As always, the team hired referees for the game. There was not a single penalty until 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter -- a pass interference call on Waller during a Hail Mary.
The team sung the fight song in the locker room after the game. It's good to see Ianello is establishing some traditions.
The final score was 53-38, with the defense winning. Click here to read the stats on GoZips.com. Ianello's overall thoughts: "I was pleased with our energy. I was pleased with our competitiveness. After 15 days, I think we've made some progress."
Sometime next week, I'll give my outlook for 2010, position by position.