After being humiliated for several big plays during last week’s scrimmage, the University at Buffalo defense played with renewed intensity throughout practice this week. On Saturday, the defense staked its claim to UB Stadium.
Challenged all week by coach Jeff Quinn and defensive coordinator Lou Tepper, the self-proclaimed “No Name Defense” perhaps exceeded expectations in showing a good grasp of Tepper’s base schemes.
“Oh yeah, I like that,” UB coach Jeff Quinn said. “The biggest thing I wanted to see was that mindset that every single player on the defensive side was going to pursue to the ball. That’s the culture and the mindset that we want every single player to embrace in our program.”
The defense registered five sacks by five different players – Demone Harris (Bishop Timon-St. Jude), Brandon Crawford, Brandon Berry, Juwan Jackson and Kristjan Sokoli.
“The coaching staff really emphasized having a different mentality this week,” senior linebacker Lee Skinner said. “Coach Tepper was really fired up. He wanted us to come out and be more intense than we were last week and we definitely tried to do that.”
Once sequence saw Berry come on a blitz for a sack, then on the next play nearly intercept a pass. Screens that went for big plays last week were snuffed out quickly, although the offense had some success on draw plays and slant routes.
“They really stepped up,” sophomore wideout Boise Ross said. “This week Coach was really grinding them about making plays. All this week they had a real physical mentality during practice.”
After last week’s dubious performance, no one was sure what to expect from the defense. They allowed huge chunks of yards, including pass plays covering 31, 40 and 70 yards.
“I thought we definitely tackled better, the front seven especially,” Sokoli said. “We missed some tackles and we have to get better at wrapping up. We still have to work on the fundamentals, but it was an improvement from last week.”
Said Quinn: “Lou did a great job, all of our defensive coaches did. We wanted to measure each day whether we were going to bring that next level of intensity to practice.”
While the defense played better than anticipated, offensive stars still produced.
Tony Daniel tossed a 31-yard touchdown strike to Devin Hughes, who Quinn said has improved as much as any player this spring.
“I thought Devin had some great plays, that really showed as he has that ability to step up and be a go-to guy,” Quinn said.
Also tailbacks Anthone Taylor, Devin Campbell and Jordan Johnson (Sweet Home) showed improved strength and toughness in short-yardage drills.
“The head coach walks off the field never happy,” Quinn said. “Obviously one side of the ball is going to have some key and big plays. You’re excited for the offensive side of the ball because they’re putting up points and moving the ball, then I’m not happy about the defense and vice versa. But I was very encouraged with the development of the defense.”