`Friday night lights' spring game to wrap up spring practices

April 30, 2010

By Taylor Soper
The Daily

It may not be televised on ESPN or attract a crowd of more than 90,000 like Alabama did two weeks ago, but tonight's UW spring football game is sure to offer a number of intriguing storylines.

Spring football wraps up tonight at 6:30 p.m. with a game the team has coined 'Friday Night Lights.' For fans who haven't attended any spring practices, tonight's game serves as a perfect opportunity to see the improvements the Huskies have made.

'It's just a chance to show everyone what we've been working on this spring,' said junior wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who is questionable with a foot sprain.

Tonight's game concludes an overall-successful spring campaign for the Huskies. A number of different players stood out, and competition was alive at various positions. Fans will have a chance to see the same players in competitive action tonight.

Among those who have impressed is freshman running back Deontae Cooper, who hails from Perris, Calif. Cooper has wowed coaches and fans all spring, and especially during last Saturday's scrimmage, when the freshman ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

Another competitive fight this spring was for the No. 2 quarterback slot. Senior Jake Locker is the obvious starter, but sophomore Keith Price and newcomer Nick Montana have both looked good this spring -- neither outplaying the other. Montana will lead the No. 2 offense tonight, and Price will back up Locker, who won't be playing the entire game.

'Jake will play until we feel he's gotten enough reps, and then Keith will go,' head coach Steve Sarkisian said after yesterday's final spring practice.

On the other side of the ball, the success has been just the same. Safety Will Shamburger -- who Sarkisian called the 'most improved of the spring' -- and linebacker Alvin Logan have stood out, while veterans Mason Foster, Cort Dennison and Cameron Elisara have improved as well.

'There's a lot of good things that came about in the last 15 days,' defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. 'The biggest thing was that we stayed healthy, and the guys all got better at their trade, so we just keep on rolling here.'

The format for tonight's game is a bit different from your normal college-football matchup. There will be four, 15-minute quarters, with a running clock that stops only on change of possessions or for special circumstances.

The No. 1 offensive unit will be paired with the No. 2 defensive unit on one team, while the No. 1 defensive unit will be paired with the No. 2 offensive unit on the other side. The coaching staff will be split up evenly to both sides, with offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto leading one team and Holt leading the other.

Sarkisian plans to bounce back and forth between the two teams. The second-year head coach didn't want to break up the No. 1 offensive and defensive units for tonight's game, especially after they have practiced all spring against each other.

'I want to give our guys the best opportunity to go out, perform, play well and show how far they've come,' Sarkisian said. 'I just felt like that was the right thing to do.'

A football game isn't the only thing on tap. Unlike in past spring-football games, fans will have a chance to get involved this year. There will be everything from a tug-of-war with the UW Strength staff to a hot-dog-eating contest -- all things that Sarkisian said were never done while he was at USC.

As for the winner of tonight's game, there seem to be a few things on the line, but nothing Sarkisian could openly say yesterday.

'There are side things that I think that are going on,' Sarkisian laughed. 'It's internal.'

But what wasn't so unclear was what Sarkisian wants to see tonight.

'I really just want to see our guys play and be successful,' he said. 'And I know what I don't want to see: false starts, offsides, holding and pass interferences. I want to see our guys play a really good, clean football game, and I want to see them having fun.'

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