Commentary: Defense dominant in Red & White game
In the final practice of the spring season, the Cougar’s defense outmatched the offense, winning 74-72 in the annual Red & White Spring Football Game.
Throughout the game, the offense struggled to run the ball. Part of the problem was the sub-par play from the offensive line that head coach Tom Herman called “just OK.” It seemed that the defensive linemen lagged too often in the backfield and the offensive line did not allow the ground game to get going.
However, the passing game looked good. After the first couple of drives, junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. had his way, albeit mostly against the second-team defense. Ward’s favorite target Saturday was sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Johnson, with whom he connected for three touchdowns, including one for 90 yards. Johnson, along with junior wide receiver Linell Bonner, who had a touchdown of his own, had an encouraging performance in the absence of senior wide receiver Chance Allen and with the mid-game injury of junior wide receiver Steven Dunbar.
With the loss of seniors Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow, the running back position is open for competition. Emerging from the pack and receiving most of the carries on Saturday were redshirt freshman Josh Burrell and sophomore Blake Hirsch. The two players combined for a hard-earned 107 yards Saturday.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line, led by senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux, shined. The line moved with relative ease, getting in the backfield, pressuring the quarterbacks and doing a decent job of stopping the run game before it could get any momentum.
Behind the linemen was strong play from the linebackers, led by senior Steven Taylor and junior D’Juan Hines. Taylor and Hines flew around the field, making the offense’s job as hard as possible by not allowing much to get past them.
The defensive backs formed a gaping hole in the defense, however, allowing three passing touchdowns of 48 yards or more. The group lost the leadership of graduating defensive backs Trevon Stewart, Adrian McDonald and William Jackson III. Their absences left the secondary weak, allowing Ward and backup junior quarterback Kyle Postma to throw the ball with ease. But sophomore safety J.J. Dallas was a bright spot for the secondary, recording 11 tackles and snagging an interception.
Overall, the team looked good. There are definitely areas that need improvement — like the offensive line and the secondary — but there are also groups showing promise for the upcoming season.
They’re buying into Herman’s plan by playing with the same fire and tenacity that he displays in his coaching. That, coupled with extra coaching and time together, will have the Cougars ready for next season and maybe even result in a run to the College Football Playoff.