April 1, 2011
By Nick Frank
Athletic Media Relations
With the stadium lights on to ensure darkness would not deter the Rams' practice, many players shined throughout the evening, a clear, gorgeous night with temperatures in the 60s. One of those players was Carter. A dual-threat option out of the backfield, he dazzled and dashed his way through the defense for a 29-yard touchdown run on the final scored play of the competition, to lift the offense to a close, 32-30 victory.
Carter took the handoff from Pete Thomas, started one way, cut back another, and out-raced defenders to the corner of the end zone.
After practice, Head Coach Steve Fairchild recognized what Carter brings to the team.
"We've got some explosiveness with Ray."
The scoreboard during the live periods went back and forth all evening with the score tied up with under four minutes to go after a 31-yard Thomas pass to Thomas Coffman landed the offense in the end zone. CSU's starting quarterback, who threw two touchdowns on the night, including a 50-yard bomb to Lou Greenwood, hit 10 of his 16 passes for 153 yards and no interceptions. Three of his six incompletions were dropped by the intended receiver.
Freshman Austin Gray helped the defense gain points with impressive open-field tackling that showed why he deserves to be listed as the starting free safety. The defense kept the pressure on the quarterbacks all day, especially on Thomas during the second live period. All told, CSU had four sacks, all of which were called by Fairchild because the defense was not allowed to touch the passer Friday. On one of those plays, Te'Jay Brown shot through a gap to touch the QB soon after a snap. Brown and Crockett Gillmore took their turn running with the first-team defense Friday.
Part of that relentless defense came from freshman defensive tackle John Froland. Instinct took over for Froland, who has been having an impressive spring so far, when he knocked the ball out of Thomas' hand to cause a fumble during a "thud" session. Fairchild congratulated Froland, and told him not to hit the quarterback's arm in practice. Froland had to sit a play out.
Linebacker Mike Orakpo was seen flying all over the field Friday evening. When he was not making plays, he was instructing other players on the defense where they needed to be lined up. Orakpo, a sophomore, has demonstrated good leadership and an increased knowledge of the playbook so far this spring.
The team mimicked a game-like situation with a play clock and a seven-man officiating crew. CSU again put an emphasis on third-down and red-zone situations.
Fairchild thought the practice was productive for the team, which will now have three days rest before its next practice, Tuesday morning at 7:15 a.m.
"I thought we got a lot of good work done tonight," said Fairchild. "I like what we did, good on both sides of the ball. There's some stuff on both sides we've got to improve as well."
Tempers flare: Continuing the ongoing trend throughout spring ball, there were a couple fights between offense and defense during practice. The first one came when tight end Ben Tedford and linebacker Charles Favors got into it after a play, prompting an official to throw a flag. Also, offensive lineman Brandon Haynes and linebacker Max Morgan engaged in some extracurriculars.
No rest for the injured: The red jerseys that players wear at practice signify that they are battling through an injury and are limited in practice to certain drills. For running back Dorian Brown, fullback Jake Levin and offensive lineman Jake Gdowski, that red jersey meant they were restricted from everything but running. The three players were found relentlessly running the stairs at Hughes Stadium during the beginning portion of practice.
Looking Good: Running back Derek Good looked impressive at practice during most team periods. Good, who owns the Mountain West Conference record for most kickoff return yards in a game (263), also returned kickoffs Friday evening.
"Derek Good did a really nice job tonight. I thought he looked good," said Fairchild.
Tough takedown: Offensive lineman-turned-fullback Scott Carter continues to implement the toughness he learned on the line. On a screen pass he caught during the live session, it took three defenders to take him down, an 11-yard gain. He wound up with a pair of receptions for 16 yards.
Situational drill: The Rams practiced different situations that arise in the course of a game such as goal-line plays and third-down conversions. Third downs have been a major point of emphasis for the team this offseason. The first live period, a 15-play session, was fully devoted to third-down situations. The defense prevented a first down on 10 of the 15 snaps, although one conversion was Thomas' 50-yard TD to Greenwood over the middle, and two of the quarterbacks' passes were dropped.
Big plays: Coffman turned in a good day, which included multiple passes caught in the end zone or close to it. His only reception during the two live periods was a 31-yard TD, spawing a huge celebration. He has looked crisp since coming back from his knee injury...On an end-around pass, wide receiver Matt Yemm found Greenwood during a thud period for what would have been a touchdown...Defensive back Marcus Shaw had a pair of pass breakups...Wide receiver Byron Steele made the most of a catch during one live period when he ran his way through the defense for a 35-yard gain. Greenwood provided a pivotal block on the play. Steele led the practice with four catches for 69 yards.
Other Fairchild quotes:
On giving Pete Thomas all 25 reps in the second live period, as well as all three two-minute drills to conclude practice:
"Toward the end there, yeah. You earn your right to get reps. The same thing happened at fullback, halfback, couple other spots, where if you're not wired into what's going on, we're not going to let you sabotage practice. Like I said, some of those twos and threes have got to earn their right to be on the field."
On Nwoke and whether the coaches have been able to relay to him that he doesn't know how good he can be:
"Yes, we have. We've talked to Chris. He just needs to continue to work. Like I've said all along, he's very talented, but he's very raw. Points of entry, finishing runs, some of the nuances in the open field, he can improve on."
On whether a true freshman will play at running back in the fall:
"Yeah, I'm sure before it's all said and done, we'll have to have a fourth or fifth guy ready to roll."
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