Sophomore from San Diego shows off pass-rushing ability in second spring football scrimmage for Griz
When backup defensive end Herbert Fernandez signed with the Montana football team two years ago, then head coach Mick Dennehy called him "as disruptive a defensive player as we've seen in a long time."
Fernandez, who has gained about 40 pounds since he arrived on campus, is starting to show signs of becoming the pass rusher UM's defense desperately needs.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound sophomore from San Diego registered two of Montana's six sacks during the Grizzlies' second spring scrimmage Saturday morning at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
"He's a guy that has really shown some savvy," said Montana coach Joe Glenn. "He's getting a grasp of the defense; he just needs to be more consistent. He appears to have the ability to get some heat on the quarterback and he's done that this spring."
Fernandez's pressures were just a few highlights for the defense, which played much better than it did a week ago in Great Falls.
"The new defense is starting to sink in," Fernandez said. "We've been hit with a lot of information this spring and now you can see it's finally coming out on the field."
Montana's offense scored five touchdowns, but three came when the offense was working on its goal-line situations and started at the 5-yard line.
Cornerback Calvin Coleman made a couple of nice sticks, including one on Yo Humphery on the second play. Middle linebacker Dan DeCoite, a transfer from Brigham Young, and outside linebacker Adam Boomer also were very active.
"I thought we played with much more tempo this Saturday as compared to last," said defensive coordinator Mike Breske. "I was happy with our zone pressure. We had some big plays off that against the No. 1 and No. 2 offense. We had some key sacks, which is great to see."
"We disguised our blitzing quite well," Glenn said. "We've done a nice job with the pressure package we put in this spring and we're really quite happy with it."
Quarterback Drew Miller, well, he was Drew Miller. He completed 13-of-18 passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He found the mark on nine of his final 10 passes.
His first scoring strike, on his second series, went to junior T.J. Oelkers. The spectacular 14-yard catch in the back corner of the end zone capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive, the day's longest scoring drive.
On his next series, Miller connected with senior Jim Farris on a 4-yard score. Miller lobbed the ball in the end zone and Farris appeared to push cornerback Joel Rosenberg.
"That's no push-off," Farris said with a laugh. "That's wide receiver-DB play. It's all good. I don't know if I got him pretty good, or if they just didn't call it. We'll have to look at the film. I think sometimes in spring, they let that stuff slip."
Miller's final scoring pass was a pretty 30-yarder to junior Etu Molden. Miller lofted the ball to the front corner of the end zone. Safety Vince Huntsberger had decent coverage, but Molden coolly hauled in the perfect throw.
"It's the same old, same old," Glenn said referring to his star QB. "He's a gunslinger, isn't he? He knows where to go with the football, I'll tell you that."
Sophomore quarterback John Edwards scored on a 5-yard run. Edwards also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Randyn Akiona, who finished with three catches for 28 yards.
Akiona caught a screen pass at the 11, broke a couple of tackles, and stumbled into the end zone.
"Randyn made some good plays," Glenn said. "He's working on grasping our offense. You can no doubt see he's an athlete. He made a nice run on that screen pass."
"We caught the ball really well," Glenn added. "Our receivers showed up and made some good catches."
For the second straight week, a handful of procedure penalties dampened Glenn's spirits. The Griz were called for five false-start penalties in Great Falls and were flagged five more times for the same infraction on Saturday.
"That concerns me a little bit now," Glenn said. "I thought we'd take a step forward this week. We're continuing to flinch a little bit. We're not doing it in practice, so it must be scrimmage situations that are making them a little nervous."
€ Sideline: Sophomore Ike Mincy saw his first action at tight end/H-back. Mincy, a 6-2, 220-pounder from Wewahitchka, Fla., moved from outside linebacker. Spencer Frederick, UM's starting tight end, injured a knee last week in Great Falls and didn't suit up for the scrimmage. Back-up tight end John Fitzgerald is a little banged up.
The only other tight end is freshman Brad Fjeldheim, who had a nice 30-yard catch on UM's first scoring drive.
"We had a logjam at linebacker," Glenn said. "We've got a good crew of linebackers. Ike was a really good high-school player in the backfield. He's got it. He can block, he can catch. I think he'll help us. He just needs time to get a grasp of the offense."
The Griz will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Riverbowl and wrap up spring practice with a scrimmage next Saturday at 10 a.m. at Washington-Grizzly.
T.J. Oelkers 14 pass from Drew Miller
Jimmy Farris 4 pass from Miller
John Edwards 5 run
Randyn Akiona 14 pass from Edwards
Etu Molden 30 pass from Miller
RUSHING - Yo Humphery 9-25, Ben Drinkwalter 5-20.
PASSING - Miller 13-18-0-141, Edwards 8-13-1-64, Nick Walker 2-5-0-25.
RECEIVING - Molden 3-40, Akiona 3-28, Brock Sunderland 3-20, Farris 3-17, Brad Fjeldheim 2-35, Oelkers 2-27.
Jon Kasper can be reached at 523-5427 or via e-mail at email@example.com.