Offense rules â€™Dogsâ€™ annual Spring game, but defense should improve by August
The Fresno State spring game might have been a relaxing afternoon for fans at Bulldog Stadium, but the players and coaching staff had one thing in mind â€“ replicating a real game.
For the second weekend in a row, the Bulldogs divided teams to separate offensive and defensive units and played in competitive intrasquad scrimmages.
While imitating a real college football game is impossible, head coach Pat Hill was pleased with the closeness to a game-type situation on Saturday.
â€œThe last two weeks have been about as close to being live as you can be,â€ Hill said. â€œIt is very hard to duplicate the game of football.â€
Players were working on physical technique, comfort level and cohesion of units, as well as playbook memorization. Coaches were focusing on communication and relaying plays from the press box down to the field in a timely manner.
Both the offense and the defense were practicing hand signals from the sideline to players on the field and substitutions in correct groups and packages.
The offensive and defensive units may have been working on the same things before spring practices wrap up, but naturally there is rivalry between the Red, offense, and White, defense, sides.
â€œWhen we go back into the locker room, weâ€™ll be slapping each other high-fives,â€ junior quarterback Ryan Colburn said while signing a young fanâ€™s forehead. â€œBut when we come out here and play, itâ€™s different. There needs to be an on and off switch.â€
With a modified scoring system that allows points to be scored by both the offense and defense for particular plays, such as first downs and turnovers, the Red squad outscored the White squad 86-31.
The offensive squad had only one turnover in 70 plays, had eight different players reach the end zone and not one of the three quarterbacks threw an interception.
But according to senior strong safety Moses Harris, the offense had a distinct advantage over the defense. For the first 15 practices and scrimmages of the spring season, the defense has been allowed to use aggressive play calling and blitz packages to rattle the freshmen signal-callers Derek Carr and Ebahn Feathers, as well as Colburn.
During the spring game, the defense had only five blitzes called all day. Harris said that the defense usually runs two or three stunts in a regular series. But even without the blitzes, Harris still felt that bragging rights were up for grabs.
â€œItâ€™s pretty intense, because itâ€™s about bragging rights in the locker room,â€ Harris said. â€œWe had been dominating them all spring long, every scrimmage we had won.â€
The defense had a strong showing early in the spring and seemed to have the upper hand on the offense, but Saturdayâ€™s 55-point loss to the Red team forced the defense to dig deep and keep fighting down the stretch.
When Harris needed a little extra to keep his and the defenseâ€™s spirits up, he thought of his coach that never gave up.
â€œFor two years [defensive coordinator Dan Brown] had brain cancer and never missed a day,â€ Harris said. â€œEven though he was losing the battle, he showed up every day.â€
Brown passed away in March and will be an inspiration for the Bulldogs in the upcoming season.
â€œWe just think about coach Brown and how he fought,â€ Harris said. â€œHe stays in our heart the whole time.â€
Spring scrimmage scoring system
Coach Pat Hill implemented a unique scoring system, allowing both the offense and defense to score on Saturday.
â€¢ Touchdown: 6 points
â€¢ Extra point: 1 point
â€¢ First down: 1 point
â€¢ Field goal: 3 points
â€¢ Turnover: 7 points
â€¢ Hold offense to three-and-out: 2 points
â€¢ Force offense to punt: 1 point
â€¢ Missed extra point: 1 point
â€¢ Offense makes field goal under 40 yards: 4 points
â€¢ Offense misses a field goal under 40 yards: 7 points
â€¢ Offense misses a field goal more than 40 yards: 1 point