Buffs Enjoy Record Crowd at Spring Game
BOULDER-The University of Colorado football team played its annual Spring Football Game Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd of 17,800 fans and alumni.
The "Black" team, represented by the first team offense and the second team defense, beat the "Gold" team 28-17. The "Gold" team consisted of the second team offense and the first team defense. Teams were hardly relevant, however, within the flow of the game.
Over the course of 90 plays from scrimmage, the offense was efficient in racking up 536 total yards. The passing game was particularly sharp, as sophomore Cody Hawkins, senior Nick Nelson and redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger combined to complete 30-of-45 passes for 383 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
"All in all we've definitely made a ton of strides this spring," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich said. "Now we just need to do everything better and faster. I thought there were a bunch of times today where we could have gotten the defense on their heels?they weren't quite set, and we weren't either. So that's where we need to be ready to roll."
Helfrich said that if there were a regular season game today, Hawkins?who completed 15-of-22 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns?would be the starter. Though coaches are not ready to name a starter now, head coach Dan Hawkins said he would like to have his starting quarterback in place very early in fall camp.
"Once camp gets going I don't think we want to mess around," Hawkins said. "We're not going to go into Week 3 without a starting quarterback."
Nelson completed 10-of-17 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown, while Ballenger completed 5-of-6 passes for 65 yards and a score.
The offense spent most of the spring developing a new, hurry-up, no-huddle offense, which is intended to keep defenses on their heels and create mismatches. Cody Hawkins said the transition to the new offense, which relies on hand signals from the sidelines, has gone well.
"I think it's kind of second nature to us now," he said. "Guys feel very comfortable with the system and when you change that much in four weeks it's definitely going to be tough. But I thought our guys put a lot of time both in the film room and meeting rooms and we came out and executed on the field. We got a lot of things accomplished this spring but we've go to just keep rolling into the summer and the fall."
The running game was not spectacular from a statistical standpoint in the Spring Game, but CU's tailbacks had a successful spring nonetheless.
"I think our spring was very productive," said sophomore tailback Demetrius Sumler, who led all rushers with 43 yards on 11 carries and had two catches for 24 yards and a touchdown. "We installed the new offense and I think it showed in the Spring Game today that we picked it up and we're going to roll with it this year."
Junior tailback Kevin Moyd chipped in nine carries for 30 yards, while six other rushers gained between 11 and 16 yards on the afternoon. Moyd also had three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Junior tight end Patrick Devenny capped a rock-solid spring by leading the Buffs with five catches for 78 yards. Senior wide receiver Cody Crawford had four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, and redshirt freshman wideout Markques Simas had four catches for 34 yards.
"I was very happy with the offensive success," Simas said. "Especially today, we made a lot of plays, got into the end zone and I think that was important for us. When you change systems you never know what to expect. After today I don't think anybody has any doubt?just excitement."
The defense did not force any turnovers on the afternoon, but coaches were able to try several different personnel combinations and experiment with young players.
"The bottom line for us is we're going to try to find the best 11 guys to get on the field," defensive coordinator Ron Collins said. "I don't care who those guys are but that's what we're trying to get accomplished. I don't care if it's six linebackers, five, four?it doesn't matter."
Senior defensive tackle George Hypolite was disappointed with the defensive play, but gave most of the credit to the offense.
"I don't think we played very well," Hypolite said. "I don't think we played very consistent. But you can't put it all on defense, the offense made a lot of plays. They prepared really hard and have been playing very well throughout all of spring ball.
"On defense we're going to be special. If we can bear down and do what we're supposed to do and stay in our gaps we can be a special defense. But that what it comes down to. We have to prepare, we have to outwork people."
Much of the defensive struggles during the spring can be attributed to the players missing from action due to injuries. Senior safety Ryan Walters missed the entire spring, as did senior cornerback Benjamin Burney, who Hawkins compared to a '66 Rambler with all of his surgeries: "There's a lot of things that need to get worked on there." Senior defensive tackle Brandon Nicolas and senior defensive end Drew Hudgins were also held out of the Spring Game due to injuries.
"That was a good thing for us because we got to work with a lot of guys that had not gotten a lot of reps in the past," Collins said.
Junior linebacker Marcus Burton led all defenders with 10 total tackles (six solo) and a quarterback sack. Sophomore linebacker B.J. Beatty continued his strong play this spring by contributing six tackles (five solo), two tackles for a loss, a sack and a third down stop. Junior defensive end Jason Brace had two of the Buffs' six sacks on the afternoon.
The placekicking competition will likely carry into the fall, as both candidates have had their moments this spring. Freshman Jameson Davis was 0-for-3 on field goal attempts in the scrimmage, missing from 62 and 31 yards, and getting a 49-yard attempt blocked by senior wide receiver Patrick Williams. Sophomore Aric Goodman made good on his lone attempt from 44 yards out.
Ralphie V made her debut during the Spring Game. Her run before the opening kickoff was flawless, but during her run at halftime, she managed to shed her harness and all but one handler before finally being corralled into the trailer.
"Holy smokes!" Hawkins said after the game. "That was the highlight of the day. That's an ESPN highlight right there, it's got to be in the Top 10."
As mentioned earlier, the 17,800 in attendance Saturday set a school record for a Spring Game. The previous high was 13,642, set in 1989. Last year the Spring Game drew 5,800 fans, and Dan Hawkins' first Spring Game in 2006 attracted 6,400 spectators.
"It was great," Hawkins said. "It was really fun. It helps the players and they got energized by it. It was a great day and we just have to keep building, keep going."
Spring football is over, but there is much work to be done over the summer. Players regularly organize 7-on-7 and other drills while staying in top shape, courtesy of head strength coach Jeff Pitman and his staff.
"You just train and push yourself to get better in the weight room and the running workouts and try to better yourself that way," Sumler said.
"I'm indifferent about it," Hypolite added. "I love football but it's always nice to get a little bit of rest, a little more time in the weight room and time to focus on other aspects of your life."
But summer is still about fun, and Hawkins has every intention of enjoying it himself. In addition to renting an RV and traveling the state of Colorado in May, Hawkins plans to take his family on a vacation to the Amazon.
"A big anaconda will probably take us all in one big bite," he joked.