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Defense Confuses Young QBs

Spaziani Introduces New Wrinkles To Test Offense’s Progression

Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, April 10, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

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Alex Trautwig / Heights Editor

After giving up five touchdown passes in the first spring scrimmage a week ago, the defense had its revenge with four interceptions and four sacks in Saturday's rematch with the offense at Alumni Stadium.

"We showed a little bit more of what we have in our package," head coach Frank Spaziani said of the defensive schemes. "Last week, we were trying to get everyone on the same page. [The defense] has to advance, too. We have to find out what our guys on defense can do, too."

Field corner Donnie Fletcher did most of the damage, recording three interceptions. The first was on a quick out to Ifeanyi Momah at midfield. Chase Rettig released the ball too late and Fletcher undercut the route at midfield, taking the ball back to the 17 before stepping out of bounds to avoid the hit. In a real game, he could have easily tried to juke the only player in his path, a lineman.

On the first play of the second half, Rettig overthrew Clyde Lee on a fly down the left sideline and Fletcher rose up for the interception. He completed his day by winning a jump ball in the end zone thrown by Mike Marscovetra.

The rising senior had five picks a year ago and looks to be just as much of a ball hawk so far this spring.

Who his partner will be at boundary corner is less certain. C.J. Jones played the first half with the first team and registered a sack. Jim Noel, who played safety last year, came out with the starters in the second half and also had a sack. Spaziani said Noel's move to corner is strictly experimental.

"Nothing's permanent," Spaziani said. "We're just trying to create some more depth."

Rounding out the competition was Al Louis-Jean, who handled the field corner duties with the second string. He had the first interception of the day on Marscovetra's first pass of the game, a lofted pass on a fly route that Louis-Jean read well. He demonstrated his quick burst by closing on several near-completions and breaking them up.

"Kid's got some spark to him," Spaziani said of the freshman early enrollee. "But he should be going to the prom this week."

Quarterback struggles

Rettig, the incumbent starter, had much more trouble with the defense than a week ago, when he threw two touchdown passes. He went 10-of-20 for 106 yards and two interceptions. Still, Rettig said that he's happy with the progress the offense has made under new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.

"We're starting from scratch," Rettig said. "I'm blessed to have the experience from playing last year. All the guys really like the new playbook. It's given us some more options from the line of scrimmage.

"Having last year's experience has helped me grow into the person I need to be to lead the team. I'm more comfortable talking to guys in the huddle and correcting people if they're wrong. If I do something wrong, I can't be too negative with myself. That can translate to the whole team."

Rettig was confident on the first series, driving the team 74 yards on just nine plays. The highlight was a third-and-20 conversion on which he hit a streaking Bobby Swigert in stride in the slot for 35 yards. Using a combination of rollouts and play action, Rettig got the offense to the two before back-to-back dives by Tahj Kimble were snuffed out by the stifling run defense.

"Understanding coverages and recognizing defensive fronts can tell you what the backside of the defense is going to do," Rettig said of how he was able to find openings. "It's helped us to know where our progression is going to start and where it's going to finish."

From the second series on, though, Rettig's throws were off. Frequently, he overthrew receivers downfield. He also fumbled (and recovered) an exchange with the center in the second half.

He did have a good pocket presence and moved well to buy additional time on throws.

"His decision making is a little bit better," Spaziani said. "His command of what we're trying to do is still a little bit new. He's got some more confidence. He's not looking over his shoulder as much."

Rettig isn't looking over his at the pass rush, but he might be glancing back at his competition for the starter's spot. Marscovetra went 6-of-11 for 128 yards, a touchdown, and two picks, but his stat line was buoyed by some defensive lapses. The rising junior consistently put too much air under his passes and was fortunate not to have at least two more throws intercepted.

Noel properly read a pass intended for Hampton Hughes along the left sideline but mistimed the jump. Hughes came down with a 49-yard reception that never should have been a completion in the first place. Toward the end of the scrimmage, Marscovetra also made the poor decision to heave a first-and-10 pass in the red zone to the middle of the field while scrambling. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground, but such poor decision making could cost him a game that actually matters.

Dave Shinskie (6-of-9, 42 yards, one touchdown) also padded his stats by coming in for the final play of a long drive led by Marscovetra and throwing a six-yard slant to Jonathan Coleman for the score.

The most impressive signal caller was arguably fourth-stringer Josh Bordner (15-of-21, 119 yards). He was the first one to get a shot with the second team. After an early three-and-out, he settled down nicely and reeled of a string of completions. He released the ball a little early on a few of his throws, but his receivers adjusted well.

Odds and ends

Andre Williams and Colin Larmond, Jr. will be out for the remainder of spring practice with injuries. The next time they'll suit up will be in August for summer camp, Spaziani said. Alex Amidon was scratched with a minor injury and is expected to be available next week.

Montel Harris got his first live action of the spring. He split the first team carries with Kimble, a redshirt freshman. Kimble was elusive in the open field on checkdown passes and could be used as a third down back

Nate Freese recovered after shanking a 48-yard field goal and an extra point to convert from 40 and 50. He missed his final attempt wide left, though, on another 48-yarder.

Dillon Quinn was ejected for throwing a punch late in the second half.

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