Red Team rolls in 2013 spring game

Elliott Pratt

An estimated 6,500 fans came out to the annual Red and White game Saturday expecting to see how the high-powered offense of coach Bobby Petrino has progressed at the conclusion of spring practice.

Those fans left Smith Stadium with exactly what they came for as the Red Team, composed of next season’s expected starters, wiped the field with the White Team 42-3.

Even with a blowout win for the Red Team as Petrino expected, the coach said turnovers kept the starters from having a really good day.

“Defensively, I thought we did a nice job,” Petrino said. “The linebackers and the secondary are very experienced and they really showed up. If we hadn’t have turned the ball over with our one-offense, then I thought it would have been a pretty good day.”

Senior cornerback Cam Thomas led the defense Saturday with two interceptions.

Thomas said he feels the defense has picked up the new scheme well and it that it showed on the field in the scrimmage.

“Learning a new scheme is tough as it is, but as fast as we picked it up and coming into the spring game, I feel like we’ve mastered it,” Thomas said. “Now everybody is where they need to be and it’s showing on the field.”

Junior Brandon Doughty established himself as the frontrunner for the starting quarterback job entering the fall, completing 23-of-35 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns, including three scores to three to junior wide receiver Willie McNeal.

McNeal led all receivers with 115 yards on seven catches to go with his three trips to the end zone.

Along with McNeal, the tight ends put on an impressive showing.

Sophomore tight end Mitchell Henry hauling in six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown and sophomore tight end Tyler Higbee followed with three catches for 73 yards and a score.

McNeal said one of the biggest changes in the offense was that even when Red Team had the game locked up, he was still getting the ball.

“In the fourth quarter when we had that big lead we were still throwing deep passes and taking chances on a lot of plays,” McNeal said. “Coach ‘P’ is an offensive guru, and he’s going to put you in the place where you need to be, all you have to do is make the play.”

Redshirt sophomore quarterbacks James Mauro and Damarcus Smith struggled for much of the game, but picked up momentum as the game wound to a close. Smith switched to the Red Team late in the third quarter, but beforehand had gone 3-for-8 and just 40 yards with two interceptions.

Mauro finished the day completing 8-of-18 passes for 107 yards and one interception.

The Red Team drove down the field with ease on the first two possessions of the game by finding the end zone on both occasions. Doughty connected with a wide-open McNeal on the first drive from 21 yards out. Doughty then found Tyler Higbee on the next drive for the 32-yard score.

McNeal and Doughty linked up twice more on consecutive scores in the second quarter from 33 yards out and a short three yard cross route to go up 28-0 on the White team at the half.

Garrett Schwettman put the White Team on the board at the 9:25 mark of the third quarter with a 39-yard field goal, the only score of the day for the team.

The Red Team never let up as tight end Mitchell Henry hauled in the game’s final two scores, the last touchdown thrown from Damarcus Smith on his first play with the Red Team on a 13-yard pass to pay dirt.

Coach Petrino said that the overall evaluation of the spring was good, and he is optimistic of what will come with summer workouts heading into the fall.

“Overall, I thought we had a very productive spring,” Petrino said. “I think what we really worked hard to establish was that the players know what our expectations are of them.  It was fun and we enjoyed it. I think we established some leadership and I think that’s going to give us a chance to be a good football team.”