Goal Line Action The Highlight Of A Windy Wednesday Practice
April 9, 2009
By Alfredo V. Moreno - UNM Assistant Media Relations Director
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - University of New Mexico head coach Mike Locksley was determined to practice at University Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, regardless of weather conditions. The infamous New Mexico spring winds tried their best to disrupt the practice with gusts reaching 30 mph, but the Lobos held their ground and completed an high-energy scrimmage session that featured plenty of intense goal line competition between the offense and defense.
Here are some of my takes on Wednesday's practice:
No Love Lost Between The Lines - What began as a mostly friendly competition between the offense and defense early in the spring has turned into an intense battle nine practices into the practice season. Wednesday's scrimmage session saw plenty of big hits, hard runs, some minor pushing and shoving, and a lot of jawing as the two sides went at each other for roughly 90 minutes.
We're now getting to the point where the same guys have been squaring off against each other for nearly three weeks and with starting jobs and playing time on the line every day, there's no room on either side to relax. You can feel the intensity thick in the air when it's scrimmage time.
However, once the horn blows and coach Locksley calls the team up to wrap up practice, the cherry and silver become one again. Temporary enemies become friends once again, talking and laughing as they jog off the field. That's the beauty of spring football.
Another RB Makes His Case - Redshirt freshman A.J. Butler has become the latest running back to make a case for the starting job in 2009. Butler, who led the team 60 yards on 14 carries during Saturday's scrimmage, added a team-high 91 yards on 15 carries on Wednesday, including a 40-yard TD burst up the middle to open the scrimmage. Spring sensation Terence Brown wasn't far behind with 73 yards on 16 carries. New Mexico has been one of the Mountain West Conference's premier rushing teams for the past eight years and based on the production of Butler, Brown, and sophomore James Wright this spring, it doesn't look like that will change in 2009.
Smallest WR, Continues To Play Big - Senior Roland Bruno doesn't blow you away with his size (5-10, 166), speed, or athletic ability, all he does is make tough catch after tough catch after tough catch across the middle. Bruno had 42 yards on three grabs on Wednesday, including a 25-yard reception in traffic from Tate Smith. Whenever you've seen a receiver sacrifice his body across the middle for a catch this spring, chances are it's No. 8 who emerges from the pile with the ball in his hands. Throw in his tenacious blocking downfield and you've got a player who makes the offense better every time he is on the field.
Latchison Keeps QBs On The Run - Sophomore defensive end Jaymar Latchison had his excellent speed on display throughout the scrimmage, flying off the edge to hurry the Lobo quarterbacks time and time again. Though defensive statistics weren't kept, No. 48 had at least one sack and did a fine job disrupting the passing game with his presence in the backfield.
Williams Picking It Up - Junior Bryant Williams led all receivers with four catches for 48 yards during the windy scrimmage session and has been improving each day in practice this spring. He made the catch of the day, shielding a well-positioned defensive back to pull in a 27-yard pass from Donovan Porterie down the sideline. Williams also showed some speed with a 15-yard catch-and-run on a short sideline route.
Rough Day To Air It Out - With the howling winds whipping through University Stadium, it's no surprise that Wednesday's scrimmage didn't feature a lot of dazzling passing stats. Donovan Porterie (4-8, 40 yards) and Tate Smith (3-8, 48 yards) were the only QBs with completions longer than 15 yards. Porterie connected with Williams on a 27-yarder, while Smith hit Bruno for 25 yards across the middle. The good news for the QBs is that much of the scrimmage was devoted to the recently installed goal line and short yardage package, so lofty passing numbers weren't likely even in ideal conditions.
Yeager Shows Flashes - True freshman QB Emmanuel Yeager continues to make steady progress as he adjusts to the speed and physical nature of Division I football, but he showed fans, coaches, and teammates a glimpse of his dual threat ability late in scrimmage. Unable to find an open receiver downfield, Yeager tucked the ball and left multiple defenders grasping at air during an electrifying 17-yard TD run.
Way To Go Aho - Sophomore kicker James Aho converted all four of his field goal attempts in the fierce wind. None were longer than 29 yards, but the 2008 Freshman All-American made sure the offense came away with points every time it entered the red zone.