There was no clear winner today between the offense or the defense. With the first day of tackling, the defense was able to clog up the running lanes for the most part and break up any big passes. That being said, the offense was also able to do damage, with redshirt freshman running back Troy McCormick breaking off a 60-yard+ touchdown run. With a few open space moves and his blazing speed, McCormick wasn't touched once.
Another strong day for both Travis Wilson and Kendal Thompson. Again, it was mostly passes of 10 yards or fewer, but there were a few deep balls thrown. Both deep sideline passes were incomplete, with Thompson overthrowing his man by a few yards on one and good defense on the other. However, one of Wilson was able to find Westlee Tonga sitting in a gap in the middle of the field and hit him for a 20-yard strike. But the best throw of the day belonged to redshirt freshman Conner Manning who tossed a beautiful sideline fade, which was plucked out of the air by wide receiver Tim Patrick for a 15- to 20-yard gain.
Today was McCormick's day, as he was able to break off the longest run and showed just how special he can be in open space. The D-line was getting great push, so junior transfer Devontae Booker's up-the-gut running style was fairly ineffective today. He didn't really break through the line even once today. Bubba continues to show his value as a pass catcher and, perhaps even more importantly, a pass blocker. As running backs coach Dennis Erickson put it, Booker may be the more physical blocker, but Bubba truly gets every mental aspect of his assignments and techniques, meaning he's better able to pass block overall.
Offensive Player of the Day: Patrick made the best catch of the day, jumping over his man on the Manning fade to pluck the ball out of the air. Even better, on a flukey interception, he wrapped his arms around the defender, lifted him up, and body slam tackled him to the ground. (Read the quote of the day for the team's reaction.)
Defensive Player of the Day: No one player truly stood out on defense, although the line would be the winner of the day. They continuously plugged up the run and were able to get penetration and disruption on several passing plays.
Quote of the Day: After Patrick's bone crunching tackle, the entire sideline lit up with cheers and chants. Of them all, several of the guys were shouting out, "Damn coach! Why's he not on D? We'll take him" or similar shouts.
Plays of the Day: Since today was packed full of plays in every aspect of the game, here are a few.
McCormick's big run. Let's be honest, who isn't excited when they see a guy make some moves and dash untouched 60 yards for a touchdown?
Manning's fade to Patrick. Great throw and an even better catch. Patrick was well covered, but he used his 6-5 height advantage and leaping ability to climb the ladder and catch it over the defender.
Brandon Cox almost followed Manning's suit, throwing a beautiful pass along the sideline. The moment it hit the receiver's hands, freshman cornerback Casey Hughes (5-11, 185 pounds) got his hands in there and stripped the ball out for the incompletion. Great to see a freshman stepping in and immediately making a great play, especially in the secondary.
We did say there were plays in every aspect, even special times. Right after Andy Phillips made a 51 yarder, freshman defensive back Andre Godfrey rushed in on the next kick and blocked it with his full body. Still upright, he and the other defenders grabbed the ball and took off running on what would have been a block returned for a TD. (Not bad from the newbie. Not bad at all.)