Defense steals the show in second scrimmage

April 14, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After giving up touchdowns on two of the first three drives, the JU defense stood tall - forcing eight turnovers, racking up 13 sacks and did not allow another point the rest of the day as the Dolphins had their second scrimmage of spring practice on Saturday.

An All-America selection last season, Robson Noel proved to be a thorn in the side of the offense all day. Noel picked off two passes, returning both for touchdowns, while breaking up three passes.

The front seven contributed to the physical tone of the scrimmage, with Kiel Pierce, Austin Knipp and Mirco Zanella getting two sacks apiece. Their control of the line of scrimmage held the offense to just 100 yards on 27 carries.

"We have some good days and some bad days," said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. "The first three possessions, the offense looked real good. But then the defense answered, which was good to see them respond. Right now, we're very inconsistent. Championship teams are consistent on every play and every drive - that is the level that we're trying to attain. When we've been healthy this spring, I feel good about the progress we've made."

While being under pressure all day, the quarterbacks looked sharp in the first three drives. With returning starter Chris Horton out nursing a shoulder injury he suffered late last season, Erik Stepleton ran the offense with the first string, marching down the field in five plays - capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenner.

Running the second team offense was Jack Solak, who got a big play in his scoring drive. Sam Bell took Solak's screen pass, broke two tackles, and went to the house for a 56-yard score.

After the early scores, the defense woke up. Mike Pollard nabbed the first interception on Solak, followed by Jason Wood pick of a Stepleton pass.

Then Noel took two to the house - one from Solak and one from Stepleton.

"The first scrimmage we were still adjusting to the defense and thinking more than playing," Noel said. "Today, we just let loose and played."

The defensive backs were aided by never-ceasing pressure from the front seven. Joining the sack parade was William McDonald, Shawn Lewis, Heywood Range, Chris Anello and Aaron Frye.

"One of the things that I want our quarterbacks to understand is that need to make a positive play," Bell said. "Yes, they were getting pressured a lot, but they have to find a way to make a positive play. We threw a lot of balls up today that should have gone somewhere else."

When they made catches, the receiving corps showed some brilliance. Jenner led the group with six receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. Geavon Tribble was second on the team with two catches for 46 yards.

Stepleton finished the day going 10-of-29 passing for 151 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Solak was 7-of-12 passing for 87 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

"Next week, we're going to continue to work on correcting our mistakes," Bell said. "We've still got a long way to go to be where I want us to be."

The Dolphins wrap up their spring practice on Saturday with the annual Green & White game set for 10 a.m.