SPRING: Defense eeks out a win

The Gator defense made enough plays to win today’s workout, but just barely. During a red zone scrimmage, the offense was held to field goals to start, but once they got rolling, they became very familiar with the end zone. But two turnovers proved to be just enough to send the defense to the locker room early while the offense was forced to run.

The afternoon began with the offense starting first-and-ten from the defense’s 25-yard line. The first team managed a first down after Kestahn Moore picked up four yards when faced with fourth-and-inches. After an incomplete pass, Tim Tebow ran an option left and pitched to Brandon James. James was met immediately by Kyle Jackson who literally took James’ helmet off. Facing third-and-ten, the secondary of Markus Manson, Markihe Anderson, Dorian Munroe and Jackson provided great coverage, and Tebow was eventually forced out of the pocket by Brandon Antwine and threw it away. Jonathan Phillips ended the series with a 38-yard field goal.

Next up was the battle of the second teams, and the defense proved that they’re a little ahead of the offense. Cameron Newton threw incomplete on first down. David Nelson was the intended receiver but was well covered by Joe Haden. Lawrence Marsh sacked Newton on second down, and Newton was forced to throw it away on third down because of solid coverage. Joey Ijjas connected on a 42-yard field goal.

The second try for the first team offense was uneventful. Starting this time from the defense’s 12-yard line, Tebow again ran option left on first down and pitched to Andre Caldwell. But again, it was well defended, and Clint McMillan hit Caldwell for a loss of two yards. Tebow had a good effort on a second down run, leaving the offense with a third-and-five from the 7. Tebow threw incomplete to Jared Fayson across the middle who was enthusiastically met by Brandon Spikes who hammered Fayson as he reached for the pass.

Facing a fourth down situation from inside the 10-yard line, the offense went for it and Tebow picked up the first down with his legs despite Antwine’s pursuit. The run set up a first-and-goal from the 1, but Tebow mishandled the snap, and Markihe Anderson picked it up for the defense.

The second team offense’s second effort resulted in the first touchdown of the day. Chevon Walker started the drive strong with a 5-yard run, setting up second down from the 7. An offsides penalty, however, sent the offense back to the original line of scrimmage. On second down, Newton connected with David Nelson just short of the goal line, setting up a first down from the 1. Newton powered his way into the end zone on the next play.

The first team offense continued to struggle on its third possession. Tebow handed off to James on first down who ran for 3 yards before being brought down by Spikes. Tebow threw a nice pass to Caldwell on second down, but Haden knocked it down before Caldwell could pull it in. Tebow threw incomplete on third down to Coldwell who was covered by Munroe, and was chased down in the backfield on fourth down by Antwine.

The second team offense scored for a second straight possession on its third try. After a holding penalty on first down that sent them back to the 22-yard line, Newton hit Nelson across the middle. Bryan Thomas missed an open field tackle, and Nelson took it to the end zone for a touchdown.

The first team offense finally got going on its fourth possession. Moore rushed for 2 yards up the middle and was brought down by Lutrell Alford. On second down, Moore made a great run, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.

The defense solidified the win, however, with an interception on the next series of downs. Newton passed to Cade Holliday, and despite a well set up bubble screen, Rickerson quickly brought down Holliday for a short gain. After a holding penalty on second down, Haden picked off his first pass of the spring to end the major part of the scrimmage.

After practice, Urban Meyer expressed concerns about the secondary, but they are definitely showing improvement midway through the spring camp. Jamar Hornsby made a couple of nice plays during the 7-on-7s. He cut off Percy Harvin on a fade route to the end zone and provided some nice coverage, earning an on-the-field hug from Meyer.

Joe Haden and Jacques Rickerson also looked good, although Rickerson was beaten by Fayson for a touchdown on the first play. Black struggled at times in coverage and took an earful from Chuck Heater.

Spikes looked great in goal line zone coverage, and knocked down and intended pass to Harvin. He did lose his footing on one play, though, that allowed Fayson to score.

The exciting moment of the afternoon came when Tony Joiner stuck Nelson in the end zone, instigating a mini brawl on the field.