The Real Thig? Wicked-quick speed-burner Damien Thigpen returns two kicks for TD’s, looking like the game-breaker who could exorcise 666 Bruin Demons
Charlie Brown had Pigpen, Rick Neuheisel has Thigpen. And based on Saturday evening’s UCLA Fall Scrimmage, Damien Thigpen is going to make a lot of teams eat his dust. He left his own teammates in the dust on Saturday, returning a punt and a kickoff for long TD’s.
It’s going to be crucial to have effective Special Teams, because the Offense looks like it will be inconsistent. Kevin Prince made some great throws, but missed too many short ones to make Bruin fans comfortable. Of course, he was facing a tough Defense spearheaded by immovable Brian Price, but the rate of success on quick throws that should be automatic was not high. Prince, however, is very likely to improve quickly, as he gains experience in a hurry. Back-up Richard Brehaut also showed that he can whip a ball to a Receiver on an out pattern, but was no more consistent than Prince on basic patterns. Kevin Craft didn’t really get a chance to show his improvement, but he did show that he is mobile enough to turn the corner on a planned bootleg — a safe call that could net a lot of first downs this season,,, if Craft finds the field.
Of course it’s Prince’s job to lose, and he won’t, unless he throws too many like the one under pressure on his second series, the one that Rahim Moore intercepted and returned for a TD. Speaking of jobs to lose, starting Tailback Christian Ramirez sprained his ankle, allowing Jonathan Franklin and Milton Knox a chance to impress… and they did. Franklin broke off a 60-yard TD, and Knox repeatedly stretched short gains into longer ones, fighting for extra yards right through the teeth of the Defense.
Adding some teeth was #7 Courtney Viney, who seemed to be all over the field. If Price didn’t disrupt the play, then Viney finished it. #96 Iuta Tepa also got a couple of disruptions, as a great deal of balls were tipped, batted, and deflected away from their targets. Viney also added a long punt return for a TD.
All-American Kicker Kai Forbath didn’t play due to injury, but Punter Jeff Locke filled in and hit three Field Goals, including a 53-yarder. Locke also looked great on Punts, even putting one long one out at the one-yard line.
The Offensive Line got battered in the Press, as the FIRST TEAM Offense did not do well statistically against the First Team Defense. But compared to last year, there WAS a difference. And whatever the D Unit, the muscle of Milton Knox looked like it could gain extra yards against anyone. As the scrimmage progressed, there WERE holes and running lanes opened up. If Prince can hit the quick passes, the Bruins should be able to have a balanced attack, and be able to put points on the board. Even if the O-Line struggles, the quick passes will overcome the rush, and keep the Bruins alive.
And speaking of staying alive, a little bit more of me died on Saturday, when I realized my worst fear: That the Spirit Squad would NOT be attending the scrimmage. Oh well. Sorry. But for anyone who comes here with the slightest interest in FOOTBALL, here are a few shots from the Gridiron on Saturday night. Rollover for captions. Hopefully, the Bruins won’t rollover again this year.