Defense steals spotlight at Orange Bowl Spring Game

Despite the fact that Saturday’s scrimmage failed to answer any of the pertinent questions facing the Hurricanes this spring, the team made sure they entertained its fans.
On a day when tempers ran as high as the scorching temperatures on the Orange Bowl field, the ‘Canes treated the crowd with a high profile quarterback battle, a hungry, opportunistic defense, and a scuffle between teammates.
The game didn’t help coaches decide whether Brock Berlin or Derrick Crudup will start at quarterback, but each player had their bright spots.
“I could call it today, but I’m not going to do that,” coach Larry Coker said. “I don’t think it’s fair to do that.”
Crudup lit up the defense on his first series, completing his first four passes during a nine-play drive featuring a perfectly placed 39-yard pass to Kellen Winslow II and a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Everett. Crudup threw for 100 yards on 7-8 passing in the game.
“I was real patient today,” Crudup said. “I trusted my offensive line, and I trusted my arm, and I trusted my first instinct.
“I think I made a good case for my campaign and it’s up to the coaches now.”
After a dismal start, Berlin redeemed himself with a touchdown drive on his last possession. The score came on a clutch, fourth down 36-yard pass to freshman Darnell Jenkins. Berlin completed 8-of-16 passes for 129-yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception.
“It was one of those days where you come out and start off a little slow,” Berlin said. “But all that matters is how you finish, and I think I finished well today.”
The two freshman quarterbacks, Marc Guillon and Kyle Wright finished 3-of-7 and 1-of-5 with 25 and two yards respectively. They worked exclusively with the second and third teams.
The defense recovered four fumbles on its way to a 49-41 victory over the offense. The defense received one point for holding the offense to a three-and-out possession, six points for a turnover, and 10 points for a defensive touchdown. In addition to normal offensive scoring, the offense earned one point for a first down.
One of the highlights of the day came on a punt, as Winslow tore through blockers to easily block the punt. Jevon Nanton picked up the loose ball and waltzed into the end zone for a touchdown.
Defensive end Baraka Atkins also made an all-star play as he ripped the ball right out of running back Quadtrine Hill’s hands and scored another easy touchdown.
“The most disappointing thing is that we didn’t protect the football,” Coker said. “Our running backs are not going to play at this university if they don’t protect the football.”
Late in the game Winslow caught a tipped pass from Berlin and got tackled by safety Marcus Maxey. Maxey tried to strip the ball from Winslow while they lay on the ground and the two teammates started to scuffle.
As Maxey and Winslow exchanged blows, Sean Taylor tackled both players in an attempt to break up the fight. The referees ejected all three players after the altercation.
“They’re aggressive and they’re competitors. It might be better to just fight for 15 minutes before we scrimmage,” Coker joked.
Running back Frank Gore did not play because he has a bruised shoulder.
The ‘Canes have their last three spring practices this week. After Friday, they will not practice until the fall.

Nate Johnson can be reached at