On Saturday afternoon, at the team’s annual Red/White Scrimmage which traditionally wraps up spring ball, Aaron made a strong case that he is the answer.
At the same time that Sorensen was being announced as the University’s first NFL draft pick (at No. 221 by the San Diego Chargers) Cantu was leading his White team to a 33-10 win over the Red squad. Cantu completed 13-of-16 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns, didn’t throw and interception and was sacked just once.
His first pass was a short hook-up over the middle to tight end Chandler Allphin, who took it the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the scrimmage. He went on to hook up with Naia Ursua and Fatu Moala on TD passes, finding them both in the end zone on 34- and 8-yard hook-ups, respectively.
“I just got in a rhythm real early, the first play of the game, the touchdown pass just got us going,” Cantu Cantu – who threw for an NJCAA-high 3,358 yards and 32 touchdowns at East Los Angeles College last year – said. “I felt comfortable after that, coach was calling the right plays and it was just a matter of getting the ball to the open guy.
“The receivers got leverage on the corners and on the linebackers, they made it easy for me to get them the football, it was a good time and we got the win,” he added.
Cantu “sees the field really well, and … in his first spring here he’s getting to know the offense,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. “I thought he took a big step forward today. We saw a little bit of the competitiveness that allowed him to thrive so much at the junior college level. He didn’t lead the country in passing without having some ability and I think we saw some of that today.”
Heading into the scrimmage there was still question as to who might take the starting job into the summer, and Lamb confirmed it is Cantu’s job, at least for now.
“We’ve been feeling very positive about Aaron, throughout the last couple of weeks of spring ball, and I thought that, as a passer, he had separated himself somewhat in his play in the last few practices,” the coach said. “We still did feel like there may be a role for some other guys at the quarterback position on our team, and I think that it’s important that Aaron have a good summer and a really good fall training camp to hold on to the job, but he did a tremendous job today and I think it would be an understatement to say that he’s got a leg up on the rest.”
The White team also got a 44-yard field goal from Brock Miller and linebacker Matt Holley capped the scoring with a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown, with Moala showing some versatility by kicking the extra point.
The Red team struggled to establish momentum but when it got on the scoreboard it did so in a big way as Christian Taele broke loose around the left end and scampered 66 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Colton Cook accounted for Red’s other score with a 27-yard field goal.
Jake Allie got the starting nod for the Red squad and he and Mitch Dahlen combined to complete 13-of-28 passes for 156 yards but they were picked off three times, by Holley, J.T. Anderson and Griff McNabb. McNabb was one of a good number of players who played both ways on Saturday.
In analyzing the game, Lamb said he liked what he saw on both sides of the ball, and outside of the big plays that the defense looked good.
“The big plays, the 75-yard reception by Allphin, the 60-something run by Taele, those big plays maybe skew the yardage but overall I think the defense played really solid,” he pointed out.
“Both sides of the ball were hurt a little bit today by playing some linemen both ways,” he added, noting that several linemen on both teams played both offense and defense. “There were several players who had never played on the other side of the ball at the collegiate level going both ways today.
Safety Miles Killebrew, playing for the White team, led all players with eight tackles, including a game-high six solo stops, while three, the White’s Chad Hansen and the Red’s Tommy Collet Jr. and Zak Browning each had six tackles. Hansen and Browning each notched sacks, as did Josh Talbot and Anthony Norris, a tight end and the White team captain, who was going both ways.
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