UH gets defensive in spring game
The Cougars accomplished their main objective of getting through the annual Red & White game with zero injured players. As for the game itself, they may have achieved a more impressive goal of flexing some of the defensive muscle they spent the offseason toning.
The White team, which consisted of defensive players, was victorious over the offensive Red 72-52 on Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
Utilizing a scoring system drawn up by head coach Kevin Sumlin, which awarded points to the defense for anything from turnovers to three-and-outs, the Red team led by as many as 20 points in the first half, but the White team rallied to take a 47-35 lead at the half and never looked back.
The Cougars’ defense was the most criticized unit last season, but after 15 practices, two scrimmages and the Red & White game to cap off the spring season, the defense looks to be on the rise.
Sumlin said that while improving defensively is the top priority, he wants the team to improve as a whole.
“Hopefully we’ll improve across the board. We have to improve on defense obviously, we have a new scheme and a bunch (of) new people and new coaches,” Sumlin said. “We’ve only had 15 practices, so we still have a bunch to do when it comes to fall camp, but hopefully we can take what we’ve done this spring and get better.”
The Cougars ran a 3-4 defensive scheme most of the game while the offense ran plays exclusively from the shotgun formation. Quarterback Case Keenum was 11-of-18 for 164 yards and exited after the first quarter. The Cougars’ offense is known as a pass-happy one, but with the development of running back Charles Sims, a consistent running game will be a focal point for Sumlin next season. Sims finished with 18 rushing yards on three attempts and two receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown.
The standout on offense was receiver Kierrie Johnson, who finished with six receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Sumlin said he hopes Johnson can become a more consistent performer so he can be utilized properly in the offense next season.
Johnson said he hopes his success in the spring carries over to the regular season.
“It’s my last spring game, so I just wanted to go out with a bang,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be a great season for me. I’m just going to work hard through summer and, when the season starts, roll off fast.
“I’m not going to make any predictions. I’m just going to work hard and whatever happens, happens.”
Sumlin said it is difficult to gauge the team’s progress when teammates face off against each other, but he was optimistic because of the overall speed on the team.
“When you play yourself, somebody leaves more upset,” he said. “We were opportunistic and our guys competed. I think that competition level creates a better team. I’m pleased with our team’s speed, and I think it shows up in how we’re playing.”
The Cougars will now prepare for summer workouts before kicking off the 2010 season at home against Texas State on Sept. 4.