WHITE SQUAD TOPS BLACK IN ANNUAL SPRING GAME
BOULDER - In front of 4,500 fans at Folsom Field, the University of Colorado football program held its annual spring game Saturday afternoon, as the Buffs' Black and White (Gold) squads battled in a tight contest that saw the White team prevail 17-13.
After holding a player draft on Thursday, CU was able to form equal teams for its third major scrimmage of the spring, with defensive tackle Matt McChesney captaining the White unit and tailback Bobby Purify leading the Black. Playing 12-minute quarters, the Buffs squared off in a showdown that held some offensive excitement, but ultimately was dominated by defense.
For the White team, who scored all its points in the second quarter, quarterback Joel Klatt spurred the charge, as Klatt finished with 89 yards and one touchdown on 8-of-12 passing. Filling in for injured tailback Brian Calhoun, fullback Lawrence Vickers complemented Klatt on the ground by gaining 94 yards on 21 attempts. With 9:34 remaining in the half and shortly after a 7-yard run on third down by Vickers, Klatt hit senior Ron Monteilh in the corner of the endzone to go up 7-0.
On the White's next drive, Kevin Eberhart extended the lead to 10-0 with a 22-yard field goal following linebacker Joe Sanders fumble recovery at the Black 24-yardline. The Black team quickly responded on its subsequent march, however, when redshirt freshman Brian White engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive and capped it off by finding tight end Joe Klopfenstein for an 8-yard touchdown.
"Today was a good day for us," interim head coach Brian Cabral stated after the two-hour game. "We have got a really solid foundation right now. On offense and defense I think we built a solid foundation this spring. We needed to do that; we needed to get back to basics. For a young team we needed to do a lot of things better, and we did that."
With 26 seconds left before halftime, the White team countered once again for its final score of the day, as quarterback Erik Greenberg launched a 33-yard floater to senior Mike Duren. Greenberg drove his unit 75-yards in four plays, with a key pass going to tight end Quinn Sypniewski for 23 yards.
The second half provided little excitement for the scoring units, but plenty of big plays on defense. Though sophomore Mason Crosby split the uprights on field goals of 21 and 36 yards, respectively ? with his last coming in the middle of the fourth quarter - the CU security squads held strong and provided big-play action for the crowd.
On the Black's second possession of the half, cornerback Sammy Joseph picked off a pass from White and returned it eight yards. Joseph's team couldn't capitalize on the turnover, however, as corner Gerett Burl ended a White team drive by intercepting Bernard Jackson in the endzone. The final interception of the game came with 7:21 remaining in the fourth quarter when linebacker Thaddaeus Washington interrupted a Greenberg attempt and returned the ball 24 yards.
Along with his interception, Washington racked up nine tackles (three solo), including one for loss. For the White team Akarika Dawn totaled a team-high 12 stuffs (two solo) and one third down stop. Junior ?backer Brian Iwuh was second in tackles with 10, as he notched one for loss.
"I was very happy to see my team step up and play hard today," Dawn added. "The best part was that both teams really played well and could leave the field knowing that this was a great spring for everybody."
"We made a lot of improvement on this team, and we got better again today," McChesney said. "The important thing here is that there are no individuals on this team. Nobody cares about accolades or awards. We just want to win together."
And it is that exact attitude that the Buffs have instilled in themselves during the past few weeks. Knowing that their 2004 campaign has gotten off to a successful start, CU players and coaches alike said Saturday that they're happy about the team's progress made both on and off the field.
"(Our great spring) revealed the character of this team," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson stated. "This is a team that really cares about one another. This is the best spring practice I've been around in 23 years of coaching. I am really excited about the fall. We have a lot of work to do, but I like where we are headed; I really do."
"If you look closely at this team, we have persevered through a lot," Klatt stated. "Every man on this team has decided to take it upon himself to do his best. This team made some giant strides lately and we are really looking forward to getting back at it in the fall. We have got a lot to do, but we've put ourselves in a great position."
Added defensive line coach Chris Wilson on if this spring compares to the one held before winning the 2001 Big 12 Championship: "Yes, it really does. This is exciting."
Game Notes: At halftime former quarterback John Hessler, who was in a month long coma after almost losing his life in a serious car accident last fall, was presented with the Missouri game ball from the 2003 win. Sitting in a wheelchair, Hessler was surrounded by the team and many former players as he accepted the gift from CU's current quarterback crew. ... Cabral also announced the spring award winners for the Buffs at halftime: Fred Casotti Award (Outstanding Offensive Back) - Bobby Purify; Joe Romig Award (Outstanding Offensive Lineman) - Sam Wilder; Hale Irwin Award (Outstanding Defensive Back) - Brian Iwuh;
Dan Stavely Award (Outstanding Defensive Lineman) - James Garee; Bill McCartney Award (Outstanding Special Teams Player) -Mason Crosby; Most Improved Offensive Player - Mike Duren; Most Improved Defensive Player - Vaka Manupuna.