May 1, 2010
SEATTLE - The Friday Night Lights theme provided a unique setting for Washington's Spring Game at Husky Stadium. And while the carnival atmosphere made for an interactive experience with fans, the ending also provided a look towards the future, both in the coming months and beyond.
Compared to the 2009 Spring Game, this was no offensive exhibition. Defense ruled the evening, setting the tone for what would be a physical scrimmage with an impressive collection of hard hits, batted passes and interceptions. Much of the talk leading up to the Spring Game had been on Jake Locker and the Huskies' potential to showcase an explosive offense, but the defense showed on Friday night how effective a unit they can be as well.
"They did a good job. I thought our defensive pressure did well throughout the spring, especially up front," Locker said. "We lost our best guy up there and I think there are guys that are filling those roles and feeling comfortable there and doing a good job."
There were several standouts, but perhaps none more than cornerback Anthony Boyles, who announced his presence with six tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception returned for a touchdown. He also unleashed a violent pop on a Husky receiver late in the game, drawing a noticeable reaction from the crowd at Husky Stadium. Every snap is an audition with the program, and Boyles is attempting to wedge himself into the cornerback rotation for the upcoming season.
His bosses sure noticed.
"I thought Anthony had a great day," said Coach Steve Sarkisian. "Obviously the fumble recovery, the interception for the touchdown, the big hit there on the sidelines and he made a couple of other breaks on the ball; he had a nice scrimmage."
But he wasn't the only contributor for two defensive units that combined to fluster their counterparts throughout the evening. Freshman linebacker Victor Burnett recorded a game-high eight tackles, and it was his bone-crushing tackle of Cole Sager that produced the game's first turnover.
Team Purple ended up winning the scrimmage 14-13 on Nick Montana's last-gasp touchdown pass to Luther Leonard as time expired. While the moment doesn't quite rival Joe-to-Dwight Clark in 1984 (a nod to Montana's father), the reserve QB provided some of the best offensive moments for the Huskies. The freshman's other touchdown came on a 31-yard strike to Marek Domanski, where Montana was able to look off the safeties before finding his tight end on a seam route. Montana finished 21-of-34 with the pair of TDs and an interception. Rain and wind made for difficult throwing conditions on Montlake, but Sarkisian was impressed with how Montana navigated the elements.
"It was good for him, the crowd, the weather," Sarkisian said. "You have to get used to playing in Husky Stadium. It's going to be a little windy. It's going to be a little wet and it's going to be a little loud."
Both Montana and Keith Price are locked in a battle for the backup spot, which likely won't be determined until fall camp. The scrimmage served its purpose to provide game-like reps to young players and shake the rust off the veterans.
Friday Night Lights was also a celebration for the team's hard work in camp. This is why the program also mixed in several fan-friendly activities, such as a sprint against running backs' coach Joel Thomas (he won) or a hot dog eating challenge with strength coach Ivan Lewis. And the evening showed that UW students are no slouches themselves when it comes to athletics. A fan involved in a kicking contest created a stir when he boomed several long field goals during a challenge, which led reporters to wonder whether Sarkisian asked for his contact info between periods.
"As a matter of fact, I did," Sarkisian said, tongue-in-cheek.