STEVENS: Lobos End Spring Drills With Pop Quiz at University Stadium
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  04/18/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

April 18, 2009

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Lobo Football
Cherry-Silver Spring Game
When/Where: Saturday, University Stadium
Score: Silver 24, Cherry 21

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

As much as anything, it was a pop quiz. A Saturday afternoon of broken sunshine at University Stadium presenting an opportunity for Lobos to go against Lobos while a group of watchful teachers looked on in evaluation.

The teachers, of course, are Lobo coach Mike Locksley and his coaching staff. The classroom on this day was called New Mexico's Cherry-Silver Spring Game and there is no doubt that some Lobos left the field with higher grades than other Lobos.

Sophomore linebacker Carmen Messina led all Lobos with nine tackles. Senior linebacker Tray Hardaway had seven tackles as did sophomore defensive end Jaymar Latchison.

And there were a pack of Lobo defenders with five tackles: DE Johnathan Rainey, DB Anthony Hooks, DB Frankie Baca (plus an interception), LB Joe Stoner, DT Ahraya Crespin, DE Seth Johannemann.

"I think this defense gives everyone on the field the chance to make plays," said Crespin, a redshirt freshman from Rio Rancho High. "I've always wanted to play a 4-3. I played a 3-3 in high school and last year we ran a 3-5. I think everyone is excited about this defense."

The offense had a few players who slipped closer to the front of Locksley's class. Tailback A.J. Butler had 110 yards on 19 carries. Tailback James Wright had 59 yards on 13 carries.

There were a handful of receivers who showed good hands and nifty moves: Roland Bruno, 5-for-72 yards, 1 TD; Quintell Solomon, 4-for-89 yards, 1 TD; Daryl Jones, 4-for-48 yards. There were five Lobo hands with three grabs: Chris Hernandez, Bryant Williams, Nick Wilhelm, Michael Scarlett (TD) and A.J. Butler.

Junior Tate Smith probably moved up in the QB race going 8-of-17 for 152 yards with one TD. But Donovan Porterie didn't show much rust coming off knee surgery as he went 15-of-24 for 125 yards and three TDs. Brad Gruner, who took over for Porterie last season after Porterie went down, went 6-of-10 for 84 yards before leaving the game after a hard hit to the head.

"Gruner took a shot. He was out on his feet," said Locksley. "He had a chance to pitch the ball on the option and I thought he probably should have.

"I think Tate is one of the guys who has done a pretty good job of taking advantage of his opportunities. When we start evaluating our quarterback position, it will come down to which guy moves the ball down the field and takes care of it."

Said Smith: "This was a perfect opportunity for me to step up and show people that I can play at the D-1 level. I think I made my case that I can play for this team and lead this team into the end zone."

If you think the scoreboard is important in a Cherry-Silver game, there was a winner. Drew Zamora pounded in a 32-yard field goal with 1:55 left to play to hand the Silver a 24-21 win. But Locksley emphasized that this controlled scrimmage was just one of 15 spring practices.

"It was another practice. It was practice No. 15. It won't weight heavier than any other practice," he said. "There are some guys who have obviously separated themselves, but we'll get into two-a-days before we start naming starters.

"What we were able to find out as a staff is what guys can do. That's the biggest thing you want coming out of spring football. You need to understand things they do well and things they don't do well.

"We wanted to get something out of it from an evaluation standpoint. We had a good chance to see exactly what they know and how they performed under the lights, so to speak."

Locksley's no-huddle offense was a main interest point in the scrimmage and that hurry-up attack didn't look like something the Lobo players had just put it.

"I've been impressed at how well these guys have picked things up," said Locksley. "We have a pretty good idea how to handle the mechanics of the no-huddle. I thought all the quarterbacks did a great job."

Said running back Wright: "The coaches cut the offense down for us and we knew what to expect and what would be called. It's going to get a lot more complicated, but I think we have a good grasp of the offense and what will be asked of us."

The Lobos also shifted to a new defense under Locksley, from a 3-5 front into a 4-3 front. That unit also did a good job in maintaining shape and getting to the football.

"To me, defense is attacking the line of scrimmage, tackling the ball carrier, pursuing to the ball with effort, and creating turnovers," said Locksley. "I think the adjustment has gone about as well as it could go."

Locksley said the team's goals in the Cherry-Silver Game were to execute, be competitive, play with effort and have fun.

"When Lobo fans come and watch us play, I want them to leave the stadium and say, `Man, those guys look like they are having fun out there," he said.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.