The decision allowed the more than 100 high school prospects - along with their family and friends - who were visiting for Junior Day, to stay out of the biting wind and get the rare opportunity to see benefits of the newest addition to the state-of-the-art Cardinal football facilities.
"We just wanted to hit..."
Following the Cardinals first scrimmage last Sunday, U of L head coach Bobby Petrino said that the Cardinal defense still had a lot of room for improvement. The focus spent during practice this week on individual improvement paid dividends during Saturday's scrimmage.
Following the first two opening drives in which the offense moved with ease, with both ending in touchdowns, the Cardinals defense stepped up it's intensity.
"Coach P told us yesterday that he wanted a tough defense and we came out and showed that today," said senior cornerback William Gay. "We just wanted to hit and just keep hitting."
Prior to leaving the scrimmage with cramps, middle linebacker Nate Harris recorded a couple of big plays. The senior signaled a change in intensity when he notched the first tackle for a loss. Moments later he read the play perfectly and nearly recorded an interception.
Malik Jackson and Terrance Butler, who are competing for a starting spot at linebacker, continued their strong play. Both flew to the ball while on the field, making a number of tackles. Butler also added an interception which would have easily have been returned for a touchdown.
"We're coming along great," said Gay of the defense. "There is a lot of experience on the team. We're gelling together and we have a lot of young guys following us because they want to play as well. They see how exciting it is to be in the Big East."
"Chris Vaughn and Scott Long have shown that they can do a good job," said Petrino. "Jimmy Riley, who has been around here forever it seems is doing a nice job - he really understands what he's doing. Patrick Carter is making a run at it and JuJuan Spillman has had a really nice two weeks."
Pat Carter continues to work at receiver and quarterback - not to mention punt returns - and continues to look like a first-teamer at both positions.
"He's a great athlete," said Petrino. "It's a little unfair for him right now, as far as the receiver competition, because he also has to spend time at quarterback."
"I've really liked his attitude. He does a great job, particularly when he steps in there at quarterback. He's going with the third group, but he's been really positive and really trying to learn the offense. I feel like he can go with the one's or the two's at receiver. He does understand the offense better because of playing quarterback."
For the Crowd
In addition to the large number of high school visitors that were on hand, the largest crowd of fans to watch a spring practice turned up on Saturday.
The Cardinals put on a good show for the packed Trager Center and at one point, a few were asked for their opinion on a touchdown call.
Bill Ashburn lofted a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone from about 35 yards out to 6-foot-2 receiver Scott Long. Cornerback William Gay had perfect coverage and the two came down in the back of the end zone with their hands on the ball.
The officials called it a touchdown and from my vantage point - 10 feet away - it appeared that the redshirt freshman did come away with the ball for the score. Claiming that he had knocked the ball to the turf prior to Long wrapping it up, Gay turned to a few fans for their opinion. Touchdown stood, but those few fans that had the perfect view do claim that Gay broke up the pass.
"We had to get up for the crowd and show them that the hard work that we're doing and putting it all out on the field and showing them what the cause is all about."
Scout.com four-star quarterback Matt Simms spent the entire scrimmage on the field with Brian Brohm. The two appeared to discuss different aspects of the Cardinal offense as they followed the action up and down the field.
The high school visitors came from all directions on the map, including Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
We'll have more on Junior Day, including interviews from a number of those were on hand, during the coming days.
Sanders, who has had seven different surgeries, gave up football this spring and is currently in graduate school. He's currently working out in preperations for running in the upcoming Kentucky Derby Festival mini-marathon.