CEDAR CITY, Utah, March 31 - Southern Utah held its first full scrimmage of the spring Saturday and for the most part things went well, Thunderbird Coach Ed Lamb said. Under windy conditions the team conducted a 90-minute workout that featured full contact and almost all phases of the game, excluding kickoffs and punts.
"This is the first time that we've put pants on and tackled live to the ground," Lamb pointed out. "That's a test for the defense. There always seem to be guys that shine in a 7-on-7 type of drill or a high-thud type of drill, and then other guys step up and some guys step down on this day.
"I was really pleased with the effort of the whole team, it started with the defense, they brought great energy today," he went on to say. "The pass rush looked super - the pass rush effort by the defense - and then in the secondary we looked real sound, they made the quarterback make a second and third look and got some nice pressure."
Although the defense wasn't allowed to hit quarterback Brad Sorensen, they did get to him on a number of occasions, with at least three plays being blown dead as sacks. Senior defensive end Jeff Tukuafu was in the middle of two of them and Nick Nissen had another.
The defense was of the bend-don't-break variety through much of the scrimmage, particularly early when the offense would gain yards but then came up short on fourth and short on a couple of occasions as well as inside the 20 twice.
"I was pleased with the offensive poise, things weren't going so well, particularly early in the scrimmage, [but] there was no backbiting, there was no infighting, they just kept grinding and our second offense actually did a really good job coming in and putting together some long drives," Lamb said. "Brady Arnone quarterbacked that group and made some gutsy plays.
"I was also pleased with the ball-security effort by the offense," he added. "On nearly every contact play by a defender on a ball-carrier the ball-carrier had two hands on the ball protecting things, so I was pleased with that as well."
Although he was frustrated by the defense at times, Sorensen did have a good degree of success, completing 11-of-18 passes for 170 yards. Four of his completions went to junior Fatu Moala for 116 yards, including 42- and 38-yard hook-ups.
"Brad's doing a tremendous job," Lamb noted. "A lot of the drives that stalled out today, he stepped up through the pass rush and we blew [the play] dead today but that's where he's a weapon. He's a big body, he's strong, he keeps his eyes downfield, he scrambles to throw and he also made some really nice plays. His completion percentage was high today and we emphasized the run, and the defensive line put some good pass rush pressure and didn't quite get a chance to finish with sacks but those whistles blew and that's the way scrimmages go."
With the emphasis on the running game Henna Brown had the most success running with the first offense, carrying eight times for 57 yards with the first unit, and scoring a touchdown on a 5-yard run with the second team.
"We haven't necessarily thrown a depth chart out there at running back but [Brown is] certainly running in the first group, he had some nice runs today," Lamb observed. "We're really counting on Myles Crawford-Harris and Malik Brown has probably been the most-improved player on our whole team this spring, he's been doing a really good job. Mike [Tagliaferri, who also had a rushing touchdown Saturday] is also in that first group" of running backs.
"The offensive line is working hard, the offensive coaches were creative in implementing the running game and we emphasized it [today]," Lamb pointed out. "It might not be as exciting as the passing game but the drives we had we were able to move the ball."
-- SUU --