BOULDER - Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen's highly efficient spring scrimmage on Saturday opened a few eyes - including the pair belonging to Colorado Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach Greg Brown.
Obviously adjusting nicely to a different role in CU's newly installed pro-style offense, Hansen completed 18 of 19 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He directed six TD drives and finished his portion of the 75-minute scrimmage with a QB rating of 255.6.
While giving Hansen his due, Brown was less than thrilled with his unit's play, primarily because the scrimmage came well beyond the halfway point of spring drills. Including Monday afternoon's work, three practices remain before Saturday's Spring Game at Folsom Field (6 p.m., free admission).
"We couldn't make plays," Brown said of the scrimmage last weekend. "It really wasn't a case of broken assignments or not knowing what to do . . . it was a case of (the offense) made plays and we didn't. Simple as that. It was disappointing to be in the 11th practice and not show up and execute any better than that - especially when there's a crowd there to see what you've got.
"The first 10 (practices), hey, our guys have had their ups and downs, but they've made some plays. But on Day 11, every play that was made was made by the offense."
Brown's role is to crank up the 'D' overall and, in his area, replace a pair of veteran cornerbacks (Jimmy Smith, Jalil Brown). Nevertheless, he has a good vantage point to gauge offensive improvement, and he's been impressed with what he's seen.
"They run and play-action you . . . they're tough on the run, they stick it up in there and you're going to have to come downhill at them," he said. "They're coming at you tough; they're being taught tough. It's an NFL style attack; you jump the run too much and they'll hit you with play action. They're good, and they've got great ideas all across the board - the running game, the play-action game, everything."
Brown also complimented the offensive line's protection of Hansen (he wasn't sacked) and its work in the running game.
"It's amazing how good a job (line coach) Steve Marshall has done with his O-line in blocking this stuff," Brown said. "They've had the kitchen sink thrown at them and they've done a great job picking things up. That room in there (offense) has a lot of knowledge, a lot of years between them. They've seen it all, done it all. You're not really going to surprise them with anything . . . they're doing a tremendous job."
DEFENSE MAKES A COMEBACK: If Saturday's scrimmage belonged to the 'O,' Monday's edge went to the 'D.' The defense, said Coach Jon Embree, "had a great practice . . . very physical. They did a good job of tackling, forcing turnovers - it's been a while since they've done that. And they were good in all phases. They won every situation - two-minute, red zone . . . they did a great job today."
But Embree said the Buffs on both sides of the ball need to show more resiliency: "We're not very good when things aren't going our way. We've got to get better on every play; we still watch the scoreboard too much. We let momentum do what it wants to us - good and bad. We have to be better about playing the next play."
He said if the defense "got overwhelmed" on Saturday, the offense failed to build on that success: "That's the other side of it, too. Offensively (on Monday) we just thought we could show up and do what we want. To the defense's credit, they weren't going to let it happen."
Embree refused to attribute the defense's Saturday shortcomings to injuries. He said the Buffs were scheduled to play 13 consecutive games this fall and "Oregon, USC, Arizona - they don't care who's out there. If you've got a headgear and a jersey on, it's your chance, your opportunity. Some of these guys, it's their opportunity to show.
"When these freshmen come in, we're putting them in situations where we can evaluate them. So, some of these guys who might feel sorry for themselves, they're getting a lot of reps, they're tired . . . they'll be rested in camp because we're going to get these young guys in here and see what they can do. This is your opportunity to show you want to be on that plane going to Hawaii (for the opener)."
BUFF BITS: Sophomore tight end DaVaughn Thornton was taken by ambulance to a local hospital Monday afternoon as a precautionary measure after being tackled and hitting the ground head first. Thornton, of Denver East, was up and moving after the tackle, but complained about upper back pain, Embree said. "I'd be shocked if anything was (seriously) wrong," Embree added. "He jogged off the field, but he was having a little pain and discomfort." . . . . Numerous injuries in the defensive line will make Saturday's game a standard offense vs. defense scrimmage (No.1 offense vs. No. 1 defense, No. 2 vs. No. 2, etc.). Embree doesn't plan on having a complicated scoring system for the defense . . . . An alumni flag football game at 4:30 will precede the Spring Game. Coaches for that contest will be former CU Coaches Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett, with their captains being ex-Buffs QBs Charles S. Johnson and Joel Klatt . . . . While Embree's coaching duties will prohibit him from playing in the alumni game, he said, "I'd love to let 'Mac' coach me up one more time. But unfortunately I have obligations. That's my way out of it. I don't know if 'EB' (Eric Bieniemy) can handle 'Mac' coaching him again. We'd have to put 'EB' on Barnett's side." . . . . Embree said placement specialist Justin Castor and punter Zach Grossnickle, both sophomores, are getting significantly better day-by-day. Good thing, too, because "if it would have continued like on Day One, I would have . . . I don't know what I'd be doing," Embree said. "We'd be having open tryouts. But yeah, they're significantly better - especially Castor. He really each day just gets better and better. I think he's just fixed some things from a mechanical standpoint." Embree also said Castor was benefitting from more time working with snapper Ryan Iverson, a sophomore, and holder Justin Gorman, a redshirt freshman. "It's been a big bonus for him," Embree said.