Spring Game Roundup: Canaan Sandy stars at Arkansas; UCLA's offense struggles
With spring games occurring across the country, SI.com distills the top news and notes from the weekend’s games.
The Razorbacks' red-team offense rushed for 252 yards in Saturday's spring game, including sophomore Korliss Marshall's game-high 99 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Brandon Allen threw for 108 yards with a score, and the red team also had two defensive touchdowns.
The star, however, was Canaan Sandy, a 31-yard-old Arkansas fan who suffers from Down syndrome. Coach Bret Bielema inserted Sandy late in the game, and he scampered for a 50-yard touchdown. Great move by the Razorbacks.
Coach Sonny Dykes wanted to see major improvement on the heels of a 1-11 season in 2013. After Saturday's spring scrimmage, Dykes believes his roster is on the right track, but there's still plenty of work to be done.
“I thought we got better,” Dykes said. “Our guys are still learning what it takes to win at this level. I’m not sure we completely understand that yet. I certainly like where we’re headed, but we still have a long way to go.”
Quarterback Jared Goff finished 14-of-23 for 170 yards with one touchdown. Dykes said the defense had the better day, as Jalen Jefferson picked off backup quarterback Austin Hinder. Kyle Kragen and Bradley Northnagel each recovered a fumble.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Derrick Willies caught five passes for 132 yards and one touchdown, and backup quarterback C.J. Beathard went 21-of-39 for 349 yards as Iowa's offense made a handful of explosive plays on Saturday. Though returnee Jake Rudock still holds a strong grip on the starting quarterback spot, coach Kirk Ferentz said his staff might find playing time for both passers this fall.
"After watching this spring, I think it is something that is very realistic because they both do some things well," Ferentz said. "Jake has really elevated his performance, and I think he is a better player now than he was in January. It's a good thing, and when you have two players that you have a lot of confidence in, it makes sense to play them in the game. The tricky part is that with quarterbacks it's a little bit different. I think it's realistic and certainly something we're going to talk about once we get back together in June."
Another college football fan made an impact on Saturday. Kaiden Schroeder, a nine-year-old who is fighting lymphocytic leukemia, ran for a 30-yard touchdown before being hoisted by the Wildcats.
As for the rest of the team, Kansas State's defense outplayed its offense. Ryan Mueller tallied four tackles for loss, including three sacks, while dropped passes and penalties plagued the attack. Coach Bill Snyder was not happy with his squad's execution.
"I do not think we were the kind of football team that I wanted us to be today," Snyder said. "There were some good things, there was some bad things. The white team at some spots collectively played better than the purple team. I think we struggled on offense. ... The offense just killed itself with penalties and took them out of field position and scoring range on more than one occasion."
Plenty of attention has been paid to the Wildcats' quarterback competition in recent weeks. Coach Mark Stoops stopped short of naming a starter on Saturday, but fans might have gotten a glimpse of the frontrunner for the job.
Patrick Towles went 9-of-10 for 110 yards and dazzled during his reps. Reese Phillips (74 yards, two touchdowns) and Drew Barker (50 yards, one score) are also contending for the job. Stoops said he and offensive coordinator Neal Brown will take more time before making their final decision.
"I think when we have everybody healthy, all the quarterbacks will look better," Stoops said. "So there's no decision yet. I'm proud of the effort Pat has done and I really like the other two, as well. I think the other two are great quarterbacks and certainly had some great days this spring. So we'll see."
Youth was served in Michigan State's spring scrimmage on Saturday. More than a few players emerged -- welcome news for a team that returns just 11 starters from last season's Rose Bowl-winning roster.
The need for new playmakers is especially clear on defense, where coach Mark Dantonio must replace seven starters, including All-America cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Sophomore corner Darian Hicks looked like a star in the making when he snagged a game-sealing interception. Meanwhile, though Connor Cook remains the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, redshirt freshman Damion Terry rushed for a 23-yard score to open the game. Sparty even got in the groove, scrambling for a touchdown late.
Quarterback Brett Hundley played just one series in UCLA's spring game, and the Bruins' offense sputtered without him. Backup passers Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard combined to go 18-of-35 with two interceptions. The game's four scores came on four short touchdown runs, while the defense registered eight sacks.
Defensive end Owamagbe Odigizuwa, who was sidelined for the entire 2013 campaign after multiple hip surgeries, made two sacks.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I’ve been long waiting for that. ... I was just happy to be out there working on my moves, showing everybody I’m here to make an impact for this team and this defense.”
The Hokies' offense flailed in Saturday's spring game, going 0-17 on third downs. Virginia Tech's lone offensive touchdown came on a 27-yard carry from Joel Caleb, while quarterbacks Brandon Motley and Mark Leal -- who are vying to replace departed starter Logan Thomas -- struggled. Motley completed only six passes, threw an interception and was sacked four times. Leal went 10-of-18 with a pick.
Coach Frank Beamer did not name a starting quarterback, but he did say his roster might require some time to develop.
“We’re going to go through some growing pains probably next year, but we’re going to go through them full speed," Beamer said. "Those are the kind of kids we’ve got, and I like that. We’ve got some questions, and certain parts of our football team need to get better, but we’re going in the right direction.”