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Defense Dominates Second Spring Scrimmage

The defense looked good in the first first scrimmage last week, they were great in the scrimmage today. Thanks to warm weather the Pokes headed outside and held their scrimmage at War Memorial Field.  The fresh air invigorated the defense as they won 72-41 utilizing a scoring system that awards points to those on both sides of the ball.

The biggest reason for the lopsided victory was turnovers: DE Matt Birkness, FS Kenny Browder and CB James Caraway came away with an interception.  There was also plenty of pressure by the defense as they totaled seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss.  In the first scrimmage the defense put up five sacks and 11 tackles for loss. 

Top performers on defense line: Matt Birkness - five tackles, half a sack, three tackles for loss and the interception.  Kurt Tuafu'asua four tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.  Josh Biezuns - five tackles, one sack and half a tackle for loss.  Max Gustafson - 6 tackles and half a sack.

Great see Tuafu'asua step up in this scrimmage, his best performance since arriving last spring.

Top performing linebackers: Todd Knight - seven tackles and half a sack.  Alex Borgs - 4 tackles, 1 TFL and pass breakup. Brian Hendricks and Patrick Hartford also added four tackles.

Knight now has 14 tackles this spring and has really blossomed.  The linebacker depth will be huge this year and plenty of competition at every spot. 

Top performers in the secondary: Eric Mitchell led the team with 8 tackles.  James Caraway - five tackles and 23 yard interception return.  Luke Ruff - six tackles.  Kenny Browder - five tackles and an interception. 

The secondary really made the most progress this week with two picks and way less mental mistakes. 

Stats from the offense and what happened in the QB battle after the jump.

This was a step back for the offense after a decent start last week.  After the scrimmage Coach Christensen wouldn't comment on the main reason why the offense struggled until they had reviewed the the tape.  It could have been the line, the receivers or the quarterbacks or a combination of all three.  For the second straight week the offense dealt with penalty issues, being flagged six times for 41 yards.  Comparatively the defense only had one penalty called against them.

So the question that is one everyone's mind is: So what happened with the QB situation? Well it certainly wasn't the best performance by either QB but there a few positives that can be dissected from the stats.  Each QB got equal time working with the 1's where last week Emory Miller took a majority of the snaps. 

Miller was 13-22 for 155 yards passing and had two interceptions.  One the ground Miller scored a three yard touchdown run but ended up with -6 net yards on 12 attempts.  Brett Smith was 16-22 for 108 yards pass and threw one touchdown pass to Nehemie Kankalongo and had one pass picked off.  Smith rushed six times but netted -7 yards due to sacks.  Last week Smith had a team high 78 yards rushing but that didn't happen when facing the top defensive unit.

So what are the positives here?  Well for Miller his 13-22 performance is exactly the same as the week before, except this time he totaled 155 yards in the air compared to 83.  Meanwhile Smith wasn't impressive with his stat totals, he was however still very efficient.  Through two scrimmages he is 37-49 or 75.5%.  With Miller connecting on just 59% of his passes it could give Smith a slight edge.

With the Spring game happening next week I'd expect each QB to again get equal time with the top unit so the staff can evaluate them as evenly as possible.  That will truly be the best opportunity to see what each athlete can do in a real game situation.

Let's take a look at some top performers at wide receiver and running back.  Robert Herron led the team with seven catches and 60 yards.  That is the second straight week he has led the team in catches and now sits at 15 on the spring.  Brandon Miller had four catches for 36 yards but 33 of those came on one play.  Other highlights: Spencer Bruce - 3 catches 35 yards and Mazi Ogbonna 3 catches for 30 yards.

In the ground game the Pokes were again without Alvester Alexander and Ghaali Muhaamad due to injuries.  Muhaamad is out for the spring but no word yet if Alexander will be available next week.  Brandon Miller had a team high 55 yards on 14 attempts and also scored a touchdown.  Kankalongo rushed 11 times for 45 net yards and 4.1 yards per carry.