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Bears' offense flexes muscles
Sharp play leads to four touchdowns in fall scrimmage
Any questions about how productive the University of Northern Colorado offense could be were eventually put to rest Friday.
A slow start for UNC’s first team ended with some big finishes at the Butler-Hancock practice fields. Tight end Ryan Chesla caught five passes for 73 yards from starting quarterback Brian Waggener, who proved effective against a scrappy secondary during the Bears’ first full scrimmage of fall camp.
“I saw the players self-correct themselves, I saw the quarterbacks take charge, and I saw the linebackers and DBs communicate,” UNC coach Scott Downing said. “I was pleased with what we did on both sides of the ball.”
Waggener finished 11-for-18 passing for 104 yards and a touchdown, hitting short routes while finding openings amid UNC’s defenders. He had a plenty-big target to throw to in the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Chesla, who jumped up to make an acrobatic one-handed grab for the day’s most entertaining catch.
That was one of the limited number of Waggener’s passes that were off the mark, which came as no surprise the UNC’s receivers.
“What can I say? I think we’re all pretty high on him, coaching staff included,” said wide receiver Cory Fauver, who caught three passes for 24 yards and a score. “He’s the face of our offense, and we’re all glad that we have him now.”
Waggener’s arrival, after redshirting for a season at the University of Florida, provides some signal-calling stability that wasn’t at UNC last year during a second-consecutive one-win campaign. Also helping was a healthy offensive line, which was shorthanded during last year’s spring game.
“We just started clicking as an offensive unit,” Waggener said. “We had to look at each other and tell one another to get back in it so we could get back into a rhythm.”
Meanwhile, the push for playing time at running back continued, though Tyrone (D.C.) Wilson emerged as a strong candidate to take the starting spot. Wilson finished with 36 yards on eight carries, including a 6-yard jaunt into the end zone where he bounced off his linemen to the outside and into the end zone.
“I still think right now if we were going into a game, we’d be ball carrier by committee,” Downing said. “We are going to play a lot of different guys in there. But the guy who is making a big move is Tyrone.”
Thirteen different players caught passes against the UNC secondary, which had some shining moments of its own. Safety Max Hewitt scooped up a fumble by UNC’s second-team offense and scampered 45 yards for a touchdown. Another sophomore safety, Michael Van Portfliet, and junior cornerback Quincy Wofford, each had interceptions.
UNC’s defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage at the beginning of the scrimmage. Freshman Cameron Friend and junior Tony Kolone each recorded sacks. Junior defensive end John Eddy forced a fumble in the first team’s opening series, knocking the ball from Waggener’s throwing hand before he began to throw.
Similar to Waggener, No. 2 quarterback Matt Baca found some success. Baca finished 6-for-9 for 91 yards with a touchdown. Each of UNC’s four offensive scores came when the offense started at the 25-yard line.
The Bears hope that’s a sign of things to come.
“We’re 10-fold better at this point of the season (than in 2007),” Chesla said. “We have more players that can produce now. There was always just that little thing missing last year, and we could never figure it out. It’s just clicked finally.”
By Jon Mitchell