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CSU spring football blog - Practice 12

Ivory Herd's 69-yard INT for a TD helped the defense win Friday's scrimmage

Ivory Herd's 69-yard INT for a TD helped the defense win Friday's scrimmage

April 15, 2011

Previous blogs from news archive | Stats from Friday's scrimmage

By Stuart Buchanan

Athletic Media Relations


FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Temperatures were in the mid-50s but it was much warmer on the turf as CSU completed a grueling 68-play scrimmage, the team’s second of three major scrimmages, at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium Friday. 


The defense, which trailed by as many as 14 points, came from behind to defeat the offense, 58-57. 


The game-winning play was a third-and-5 play in which Chris Nwoke took an inside handoff and got stuffed by C.J. James, giving the defense two points and the one-point victory. 




It wouldn’t be a team competition without some controversy. On a pivotal play late in the scrimmage, Head Coach Steve Fairchild ruled that the defense would have sacked Pete Thomas. The sack nullified a gorgeous deep ball from Thomas to Marquise Law, what would have been a 40-yard touchdown along the sideline. Another game-changing play came from M.J. McPeek when he threw a nice deep ball to Tony Drake, but Drake wasn’t able to drag his left toe before his right foot stepped out of bounds. It would have been a 37-yard completion. 


The offense was firing on all cylinders and had an early lead but senior safety Ivory Herd shifted the momentum with a 69-yard interception for a touchdown. Herd, who scored on the play after hauling in a deflected pass, seems to turn up his energy and ability when he steps on the turf. In the first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday’s Herd returned a fumble 67 yards for a score down the same sideline.


Fairchild acknowledged Herd’s strong play as of late and said that is exactly what he expects from his defense.


“A tipped ball and he returned another one for a touchdown,”  Fairchild said. “Again, that’s what we’re talking about. Bottom line is, are you going to produce? Ivory seems to do that when he’s on the field.”


At this point the defense really took control, getting forced fumbles from Nordly Capi and James Skelton, who blew up 279-pound fullback Scott Carter in the red zone, and sacks from Colton Paulhus and Curtis Wilson. Seeing the defensive line come up with big plays after the Rams lost starters Guy Miller and Ty Whittier to graduation is a huge upside. Fairchild also praised that position group.


“I think we’re starting to figure out a rotation,” Fairchild said. “I think we’ve got some guys that need to come on a little bit. We’ve got a chance to be pretty good there.”


The offense got great production early in the scrimmage from Derek Good, who was arguably the best player coming out the backfield Friday. Good, listed as the third-string running back on the pre-spring depth chart, had 11 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for 25 yards. 


Another player that helped the offense jump out to an early lead was tight end Crockett Gillmore. Gillmore, who had been lining up at defensive end until Thursday, saw a lot of action at his new postion. Gillmore was a 1,000-yard wide receiver in high school and proved he still has his hands and leaping ability on a 17-yard reception. Gillmore caught a short pass, ran 5 yards and leaped over Drew Reilly, allowing the 6-6 tight end to gain another 10 yards. 


He scored a lot of touchdowns in high school,” Fairchild said. “He was a really prolific offensive player in high school. Some guys are like that.”   


Just like the previous scrimmage, the Rams went through pregame warmups to get them focused as they would before a regular-season game. Also like a regular-season contest, there was a seven-man officiating crew, which treated Friday’s scrimmage like a real game, throwing flags for any infraction. After winning the competition the defense was treated to a hearty barbecue dinner, while the losing squad had to settle for hot dogs.


The scrimmage consisted of five situational periods, followed by eight move-the-ball drives. All of the move-the-ball drives started at the defense’s 40-yard line. The situational periods included a pair devoted to third downs, a major point of emphasis this spring. CSU also scrimmaged in red-zone, goal-line and backed-up situations.


During the scrimmage the Rams had a couple special teams plays scripted as well. The field-goal unit had to hurry on the field and attempt a rushed kick. Ben DeLine connected on both his attempts from 28 and 38. Chad VanderMolen also put both of his 28-yard field goals between the uprights. 


Redshirt freshman Bernard Blake led the team in tackles with eight (four solo). Mychal Sisson was also flying around the field, recording seven tackles, two for a loss. 


Najee James almost intercepted M.J. McPeek.


Familiar face: Jesse Nading, like every other NFL player currently locked out by league owners, watched the scrimmage from the sidelines. Nading, who will enter his fourth year with the Houston Texans when players and owners settle the current labor dispute, was an all-conference defensive end for the Rams in 2007.


In a boot: Senior wide receiver Matt Yemm has worn a boot on his right leg the past two practices, after injuring his ankle earlier this week. Yemm was walking around near the end of practice without the boot and held for the four field-goal attempts. 


Shoving match: With Friday’s scrimmage being treated nearly identical to a regular-season game, Fairchild was going to crack down on the fights. He threw out four players for fighting. Senior running back Raymond Carter and sophomore Shaq Bell got into a shoving match, causing the officials to throw their flags and step in between the players. Since switching to the offensive side of the ball, Gillmore hasn’t been getting any love from his former spring teammates. Mike Orakpo got into his face Friday and during a heated exchange ripped off Gillmore’s helmet and threw it to the ground. 


“I threw Raymond out. I threw about four people out,” Fairchild said. We tried to treat it like a game, if there was fighting. I told them before (practice), if there’s fighting I’ll throw you out. Crockett got thrown out, Orakpo got thrown out, and I don’t know, I threw one other out (Shaq Bell).”


Coaching adjustment: Pat Meyer called all the plays for the offense. Also, Larry Kerr is expected to call plays from the press box this fall, a change from last year, when he called them from the sidelines. Kerr doesn’t have a position assignment this year, so he’s free to concentrate on the entire defense. 


Get used to the 4 p.m. start times: Fairchild started the scrimmage at 4 p.m. because it is kickoff time for the CSU season-opener, at New Mexico Sept. 3. The Rams’ No. 1 team goal this season is to beat New Mexico, and to ensure the team is focusing on that goal, the CSU locker room has an electronic countdown clock with big, red numbers and the CSU and New Mexico logos. 


Thomas maturing: Thomas was 8-for-20 for 94 yards and a 10-yard touchdown strike to Byron Steele during the scrimmage. However, of his 12 incompletions, two were thrown away intentionally to avoid a sack. Thomas, who has vowed to cut down on the sacks he allows this year, also saw three of his passes dropped, including a deflection through the hands of his intended receiver and into the arms of Herd, who sprinted down the east sideline for a 69-yard touchdown return. Another of Thomas’ incompletions was a fade route to the corner of the end zone, where intended target Lou Greenwood turned to the wrong shoulder during a miscommunication. Another positive from Thomas was his percentage of third-down conversions during the two third-down periods. He converted on six of his 10 snaps. 


Other offensive scores: During the red-zone scrimmage, Drake scored on a 10-yard end-around run and Carter turned a draw into a 14-yard score. Nwoke bull-dozed into paydirt with a 5-yard blast during the goal-line period.


Other Fairchild quotes…


General: “A little cleaner. We’re kind of starting to see who our playmakers are, the guys that you want the ball in their hands, or you want them on the field on a third down on defense. There’s some good stuff. And, we’re starting to figure out who’s not ready to play, by the same token. But it was a cleaner, sharper scrimmage. I figured that would be the format. Every play we did was live; I don’t know how many we went (68). And both sides of the ball flashed, which is encouraging.”


On his playmakers, besides Herd: “I liked Tony Drake a little bit out there today. I thought Crockett Gillmore looked unbelievable at times out here. I think he’s got a bright future in that regard, at tight end. We’ll talk to him about it. There’s some good stuff. I think we can get the ball to Lou Greenwood. We’ve got some guys, too, that need a few more springs, and they need summer, and they need August, but it’s starting to sort itself out.


“Derek (Good) had a nice scrimmage, a nice scrimmage. I thought Chris (Nwoke) played hard. I thought Raymond (Carter) did some nice things.”


On Mychal Sisson: “His mouth was working. His mouth was working more than his fists. I told him I like that. I hope he talks. I hope he talks the entire week next week.”


On how much of a chance Gillmore has at playing both ways this fall: “I made reference yesterday to the Stanford linebacker-fullback guy. How they do it, I don’t know. It would take some time, and some well-thought-out packages to see which way he could go the most, and so forth. We’ve got a long time before we have to make that decision. But I know this: He’s one of our top 22 football players and he will be on the field in Albuquerque (for the CSU season-opener Sept. 3).”


On whether he gets to eat barbecue with the victorious defense, or has to settle for hot dogs since he still will call the plays in the fall: “Pat Meyer (who called all the plays Friday) is the offensive coordinator. I’m in the middle on this one. I’ve been watching the defense a little more closely this spring. I liked what happened out here today. This was a good practice.”


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