Defense wins the day at second intrasquad scrimmage
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 02:09
Depending on which player you ask about the Jumbos’ intrasquad scrimmage on Bello Field Friday, you might hear that it started out great or that it started out ugly. Both would be correct.
It was great for the defense: Three different players snared an interception in the early going. It was ugly for the offense: Three different quarterbacks threw a pick.
Unlike the Jumbos’ first intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday, Friday’s matchup was played under the lights on the Bello turf and was mediated by a referee crew. But the basic premise was the same: defense versus offense with points earned, somewhat arbitrarily, for various achievements.
Last weekend, the offense earned itself a later treatment time and an extra hour of sleep. This time, the offensive players walked off the field carrying their counterparts’ pads.
“Defensively, I thought we did some great things,” head coach Jay Civetti said. “Three picks early, which is great. Obviously, from an offensive mindset, that’s frustrating.”
The offense looked stagnant and sloppy on the first few possessions. There were dropped passes, sacks and underthrown balls, as well as the three picks. Freshmen Alex Snyder and Liam O’Neil each threw one apiece, while junior Jack Doll was picked off once as well. Sophomore Drew Burnett also threw an interception later on.
Civetti confirmed yesterday that Doll will start the season opener at Wesleyan on Saturday.
While the offense struggled, the coach was encouraged by the tenacious effort of his defensive players.
“When you turn the ball over three times, it’s difficult to get momentum,” Civetti said. “But I think the defense played really well. I think some guys made some great plays.”
In an intrasquad scrimmage, there’s always a flip side. On Friday, the offense’s struggles came at the hands of a defense that looked fast and physical.
“Any time you turn the lights on, I think they’ve got a little bit more energy, a little bit more emotion,” defensive coordinator Kevin Farr said. “We fell into some good spots, and we got some good pass rush and put some good pressure on the quarterback. Guys made plays when they had a chance.”
The performance was encouraging from a defensive unit that is inexperienced, except at linebacker. Farr has tweaked some things from last season, but the first-year defensive coordinator is trying to keep it simple.
“Our goal is to play fast, so there’s not a whole lot of wholesale changes,” he said. “We’re young, so we want all the guys to run around and make plays and not over-think things.”
Farr and his defense were likely aided on Friday by their knowledge of the Jumbos’ pass-heavy attack, but the offense did manage to make adjustments and find some success in the middle of the field.
Freshman running back Chance Brady was arguably the offensive MVP, gaining chunks of yardage on screens, flat routes and handoffs up the middle. First-year slot receiver Ben Berey also caught a handful of passes, mostly screens, and junior Greg Lanzillo, who caught just six passes last year, made a couple of acrobatic plays and ran a slant route for a touchdown.
Fifth-year tight end Nick Kenyon was cleared to play in full pads last week after spending much of the preseason doing ladder drills on the sideline. On Friday he lined up out wide and moved well, making a few catches including a shoestring grab in the end zone.
“He’s a good receiver and can be a threat in a couple different ways,” Civetti said. “Whether he’s on the outside or whether he’s on the inside, it’s nice to be able to have that 6-foot-5, 245-pound receiver.”
Despite the Jumbos’ pass-first inclination and their emerging threats at wide receiver, junior tailback Zack Trause has a chance to become the centerpiece of the offense. Trause has played in just 10 games in his first two seasons due to injury, but he continues to showcase his ability to be a dual-threat back who breaks tackles and battles for extra yards.
“Just got to keep him healthy,” Civetti said. “That’s the reason that his name isn’t all over the place — because he’s been hurt.”
Friday’s scrimmage was played in lieu of the Jumbos’ annual preseason scrimmage against Bowdoin, which Tufts won last year, 7-0. Civetti wanted to keep the focus on his own team, for the moment.
“I feel like the less distractions we have, the better,” he said. “This was just another day of work, and I think that’s been the mindset.”
Still, at the end of the night on Friday, the Jumbos rehearsed a play they hope to break out against NESCAC opponents: the QB kneel — also known as victory formation.