Colorado’s defense had another solid day on Friday, while a veteran showed some vintage production to lead the offense.
On a snowy afternoon, the CU football team held its second scrimmage of the spring at the indoor practice facility, and after the defense dominated a week earlier, this one saw more back-and-forth. The defense came up with several big plays, but running back Alex Fontenot had a big day, as did quarterback JT Shrout.
“I know we were thin in a lot of spots,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “We couldn’t go as long as we’d like … but I felt our guys competed well. I thought there was a lot of give and take, where the offense was making some plays and the defense was making some plays.”
The Buffs’ leading rusher in 2019, Fontenot missed the 2020 season with a hip injury but had a big day Friday. Unofficially he had nearly 100 yards in total offense, including a long run of about 30 yards, during which he ran through safety Mark Perry downfield. Fontenot added another run of about 15 yards and caught a screen pass for another 12-15 yards.
“I was impressed with Alex today,” Dorrell said. “He was very assertive. He wasn’t tippy-toeing on anything. I thought he was running hard and getting through the line of scrimmage. Really what I saw on film in 2019 is what I saw Alex Fontenot do today, so that was a really, really positive sign that he’s back and he’s gonna have some great value for us in our backfield.”
CU ran nearly 70 plays, including some goal-line situations late in the scrimmage.
Shrout overcame a slow start to unofficially complete 5-of-8 passes for two touchdowns. He started 2-for-5 with a tipped interception, but then threw a nice touchdown pass to Montana Lemonious-Craig in the corner of the end zone and hit Daniel Arias for about a 30-yard touchdown on a deep pass.
After getting shut out of the end zone in an abbreviated scrimmage a week earlier, the offense put four touchdowns on the board Friday.
“I think in that first scrimmage the defense kind of had the upper hand, played a little better,” Shrout said. “Up front today our O-line did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage in the passing game and the run game, so I think that’s kind of where it all starts with those big boys up front. They did a great job today and then we were able to score a couple of times, throw a few touchdowns to some guys.”
Defensively, inside linebacker Jonathan Van Diest and outside linebacker Carson Wells made several plays. Isaiah Lewis had the interception on the tipped pass by Shrout early in the scrimmage, while Joshka Gustav, Lloyd Murray, Na’im Rodman and Jalen Sami had sacks.
In goal-line situations, the defense held the offense to field goals each time. That side of the ball also showed good physicality throughout the day.
“I thought defensively, when their backs were to the wall, particularly down there very deep in the red zone, I think they tightened up and it was really hard to punch the ball in,” Dorrell said. “I’m very excited about that. I think that’s part of what we need our defense to be: very stingy against the run, making sure that you’re taking care of that area. … We kicked a lot of field goals today; not a lot of touchdowns.”
With nine of 15 practices completed this spring, Dorrell is pleased with the overall progress.
“I think this team is getting better,” he said. “The point right now is to try to finish these next two weeks of getting some of that health back and continue to develop the depth in our program, in particular our young guys. … Good competitive stuff today. I was very pleased. Good finish to that third week, and hopefully we’ll have two more successive improvement weeks to feel good coming out of the spring process.”
True freshman quarterback Drew Carter, who enrolled at CU in January, didn’t participate in the first scrimmage, but unofficially went 4-for-4 on his passes Friday, including an 11-yard touchdown to freshman tight end Caleb Fauria.
Carter, who played about 10 snaps, also looked good as a runner.
“I’m very pleased with where he is,” Dorrell said. “He’s another guy that came in here in January, had to digest our offense in a fast pace, which is hard for freshmen to do. And not that he knows everything yet, but he knows enough where he can execute and make some plays and he did that well today. I’m sure he’s gonna feel confident going into these last couple of weeks.”
Running back Jarek Broussard did not practice, as he’s recovering from a sprained ankle. Dorrell said the Buffs didn’t want to push Broussard back into action but hopes he is healthy enough to return next week. … Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis wasn’t sharp on a lot of his throws but unofficially completed 7-of-9 passes. Walk-on Grant Ciccarone went 4-for-5. … Fontenot unofficially led the team with four receptions, while Lemonious-Craig had three. … Kickers Evan Price and Mac Willis connected on all of their field goal attempts. … Walk-on tight end Nick Fisher is no longer on the roster. A graduate transfer last year, Fisher did not appear in a game during his one season with the Buffs.