University of Northern Colorado football coach optimistic about future after team's spring game
Junior running back Christian Reddick dives toward the end zone but is tackled short of the goal line by members of the Blue team in Saturday’s spring game. Ben Stivers | The Mirror
Ben Stivers | The Mirror. Junior running back Quentin Hildreth eludes a defender in Saturday’s spring
Spring football games are glorified scrimmages used for evaluating talent, engaging boosters and knocking off rust. UNC's football team looked plenty rusty early in its spring game before finding some rhythm in the second half of a 21-13 win for the Blue team.
White led 13-7 late in the fourth quarter with the ball deep in its own territory when Blue junior safety Mason Walters blocked a punt from senior Dave Eden. Freshman Tyler Bloyer scooped up the ball and ran it into the endzone, tying up the game. Without changing his jersey, Eden kicked the extra point to give Blue the lead.
On the ensuing kickoff - preformed by Eden - Blue forced a fumble by senior returner Emanuel Hamilton and cashed in two plays later as tight end Austin Wilburs snagged a touchdown pass from quarterback Tim Tancik with less than a minute remaining.
Freshman quarterback Jyron Walters led a drive into Blue territory in the final seconds but with about 10 seconds left was hit while releasing the ball, which was caught by a Blue defender, ending the contest.
After the game, head coach Earnest Collins Jr., who said his focus was keeping the team healthy, reflected on the five turnovers forced between the two teams.
"As a head coach, you've got to try not to be biased, but I have a background in defense so it's good to see, and (Defensive coordinator Zach) Shay is going to get after those guys - he preaches it all the time," Collins said.
Senior starters quarterback Seth Lobato and running back Tromaine Dennis, along with junior receiver Dimitri Stimphil, led Blue to a touchdown on the first series of the game. From that point on, though, both offenses became stagnant.
Lobato said he recognized offensive miscues were an issue, but he expects the team to continue growing as the season approaches.
"Turnovers killed us today, and we've just got to work on cleaning that stuff up and even just some reads on our parts, just each individual assignment - we've just got to make strides each day," he said.
Lobato experienced the sting of turning over the ball first-hand when junior cornerback Courtney Hall intercepted his second-quarter pass deep in Blue territory and took it the other way for a touchdown. He attributed the turnover to Hall freelancing on the play.
"The funny thing about that is he was a little bit out of position, so it kind of just fell into his hands but he made a play," Lobato said.
The third-year starting quarterback finished with 91 yards on 12-of-22 passing and a touchdown to Stimphil, who recorded 61 yards receiving. Dennis rushed for 46 yards on just five carries.
Stimphil said working with and against the defense is all part of being a team.
"Our defense is very competitive. I live with Courtney, so every day we go home, we talk, he tells me what I need to work on, I tell him what he needs to work on," he said.
The scrimmage was missing several key players from prior seasons as seniors center Jake Solomon and linebacker Clarence Bumpas, junior defensive tackle Lexington Smith and sophomore defensive tackle Devontae Chapple were all absent as they nursed various injuries.
Hall expressed confidence in the team without them while noting the danger of the team with them.
"We kind of played half the season last year without Bumpas and Chapple," he said. "We missed those guys a lot but we've just got to keep moving and keep pushing and need other guys to step up and play, but when they do get back, a lot of people are going to be in trouble in this conference."
The spring season is now complete, and Collins said that he's looking forward to the next step, summer training camp.
"Overall, I'm excited about what's coming back and what we're going into this summer," he said.
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