The football team got a chance to evaluate its progress from the last few weeks during Saturday’s Spring Scrimmage at the Orange Bowl. The offensive unit emerged victorious by a score of 31-10.
Every year, the Hurricanes end Spring Practice with a four-quarter game between the offense and the defense that is open to the public. The offense earns points for first downs, field goals, touchdowns, and extra points, while the defense can score by forcing three-and-outs or turnovers and returning interceptions or fumble recoveries for touchdowns.
The offense started off slowly, trailing 7-6 at the half, but took advantage of a few big plays to break the game open in the second half. Senior quarterback Brock Berlin, who has received much criticism from both media members and fans, completed 11 of 15 passes for 185 yards and threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Jenkins early in the fourth quarter to give the offense the lead for good.
Head Coach Larry Coker said after the game that Berlin was progressing in the most important areas.
“I think I have seen [Berlin] step up this spring and concentrate on making plays, leading our football team, and scoring touchdowns,” Coker said. “All the reads, all those things you can just throw out the window. Ken Dorsey wasn’t the prettiest guy in the world [throwing the football], but he could lead the team and score touchdowns.”
While Berlin was jeered early in the first half, red-shirt freshman Kyle Wright received a standing ovation when he entered the game in the second quarter. Wright completed six of 13 throws for 67 yards, and senior Derrick Crudup went 7-for-12 for 69 yards and an interception.
Offensive lineman Eric Winston said the fans are being far too hard on Berlin.
“I think [the fans] are incredibly unfair [to Brock], but that’s the way it is around here,” Winston said. “That’s the way they have always been. I know one thing: it doesn’t matter. Whoever they are cheering for, it doesn’t matter. I know Brock made a lot of good throws and a lot of good plays today. That’s all I care about.”
Running back Tyrone Moss started off slowly but was able to take advantage of some holes created by the offensive line in the second half. The sophomore finished with 95 yards on 13 carries.
“Tyrone ran well, and he caught the ball a couple of times well,” Coker said. “I think Tyrone is one of those backs that gets better as the game goes on. If the game lasted eight quarters, [during] the last two he would be a phenom.”
Seldom-used tight end Buck Ortega led the receiving corps with six catches for 89 yards, and projected starting tight end Kevin Everett added five receptions for 54 yards. It was Jenkins, however, that left a lasting impression on his coaches by making the aforementioned 59-yard touchdown grab.
“I just grabbed Darnell [Jenkins] as he was walking off the field, and the thing we talked to the offense was that we wanted to find out who our guys were that are going to make plays,” Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner said. “After this spring, he is one of those guys.”
The score may seem a bit lopsided, but Coker said he was just as impressed with the defensive effort in this game and throughout the spring.
“I have been impressed all spring with the defensive front and secondary,” he said. “I think they did an outstanding job most of the time.”
Coker said that as a whole, this year’s spring was more productive than last year’s, which is an encouraging sign for Hurricane fans with national championship aspirations.
“As a player, I would like to have three days of spring practice, but as a coach, I would like to have 50,” he said. “I think we got a lot accomplished. I saw a lot more confidence out of the quarterbacks than I saw a year ago at this time. I see some bright spots there and I see some big play opportunities that I didn’t see before.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.