Defense impresses in second scrimmage
The offense continued to make some big plays in Idaho’s second football scrimmage of the spring Saturday in the Kibbie Dome, but it was the Idaho defense that stood out the most.
“I think we dominated today,” senior defensive end Quinton Bradley said. “The offense did what they could, (but) we had a good day today. We showed that we can stop them anytime at any given day. I think its props to our defense today.”
Bradley led the Idaho defensive line with 10 tackles and six tackles for loss and five sacks. He was also credited with one quarterback hurry.
The defense held the offense to a 2.2-yard rushing average and a 9.0 yards per attempt passing average. Another standout was freshman Kaden Elliss, who led the defense in tackles for the second time in Idaho’s two spring scrimmages.
“This was probably the first scrimmage since I’ve been here where the defense got after the offense that much,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said. “The last 50 plays they really got after them.”
While the defense was impressive, both Petrino and linebackers coach Eric Brown said the players need to improve tackling in open space.
“Pretty good day — we gotta tackle better,” Brown said. “I would say too many missed tackles, but we had some good disruption. We timed our blitzes way better than we have throughout the spring. Kaden (Elliss) flew around and made a ton of tackles again.”
One of the best plays of the scrimmage came on an interception by sophomore Armond Hawkins. The defensive back-linebacker hybrid had the only interception of the day as well as two pass breakups.
“He did a good job,” Brown said of Hawkins playing at the nickel backer position. “He’s athletic, and that’s what we’re looking for at that position. He did a real good job of staying underneath on kind of a high-low route and got an interception, something we’re looking for out of him.”
Although the defense was dominant for much of the scrimmage, the theme of the offense was big scoring plays. The offense had seven touchdowns of 38 yards or more. The longest touchdown of the day came on a 69-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jake Luton to junior tight end Deon Watson.
“He did some good things today,” tight ends coach Al Pupunu said of Watson. “We still gotta get better at that position. He’s still got some things he’s got to learn, especially blocking on the perimeter.”
The quarterbacks spent much of the practice running for their lives through the scrimmage. They also had similar stat lines, as sophomore Matt Linehan finished with 25-of-42 passing for 354 yards and three touchdowns, while Luton finished 14-of-25 for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
“They did some good things, especially early, but then there’s some things where we had some wide open touchdowns and we missed them,” Petrino said. “You can’t have that, especially when you’re struggling a little bit for protection … When you do get a wide open touchdown, you gotta hit it.”
Idaho didn’t come out of the scrimmage unscathed. Freshman running back Isaiah Saunders couldn’t put any weight on his left leg after an injury in the second half of the scrimmage. Sophomore running back Aaron Duckworth already missed the scrimmage after being knocked out of the first scrimmage on a hard hit by Ellis.
The two underclassmen are the backups to senior running back Elijhaa Penny, who was largely held in check by the Idaho defense in the scrimmage after a 47-yard touchdown run on the third play of the scrimmage.
Sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Rose also left the field in crutches, but Petrino said he doesn’t expect Rose to miss much practice time with his injury.
Idaho has one more scrimmage Friday before playing in the annual spring game April 24 to conclude spring football.
“We want to see a whole bunch of improvement in the next two weeks,” Petrino said. “Sometimes the spring game isn’t really as important as these next practices coming up.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org