April 21, 2012

Lobato leads Blue past White in annual 'Battle of the Bears'

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GREELEY -- Seth Lobato threw for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday, and Ryan Holmes had three tackles and two sacks to lead Northern Colorado Blue past White in the annual "Battle of the Bears" spring game.

Lobato completed 17-of-28 passes and connected with Jace Davis and Chris Morris five times each through the air.

Davis finished with 58 yards receiving and grabbed one of Lobato's touchdowns, while Morris, who had 55 yards receiving, punctuated the scrimmage by hauling in Lobato's other score as the final clock expired at Nottingham Field.

Davis, who had to sit out last year with academic issues, was playing for the first time since his breakout freshman season that saw him earn a spot on the All-Big Sky Conference First team after catching 53 passes for 992 yards and seven touchdowns.

His presence on the field Saturday was a welcome sight for Collins and his assistant coaches and the 300 or so fans in attendance.

"It's good to have [Davis] back," Collins said. "He's still a little rusty, but I think come season time, with fall camp in, he's going to be ready to go. I'm looking for some big things out of him."

"It felt good to be back home, playing out in front of my fans and my friends," Davis said. "It was a relief coming out here. I'm just glad Coach [Collins] gave me an opportunity to come back."

Clarence Bumpas led the Big Sky Conference with 145 tackles last season, and he picked up where he left off for the White team, leading all players with seven tackles Saturday, including getting a sack of Lobato for a loss of four yards.

Both teams were solid defensively, combining for 73 tackles and getting seven sacks, five pass breakups and three tackles for loss.

"Our defensive line was young last year with some guys," Collins said, "but we took Gavin [Miller] and moved him to defensive end, and that brought us more speed off the edge, and with [Devontae] Chapple and [Lexington Smith], we're stronger up front. We still need to get some depth up there, but we're stronger up front, which is going to make our secondary look that much better.The future is bright."

Matt Baca and Tim Tancik split time under center for the White team and finished a combined 6-for-12 passing for 48 yards. Marcell Peoples (two catches for 22 yards) and Sawyere Monson (two for 12), who continued his switch over from the defensive line, led White's receivers.

Transfer Christian Reddick (NCAA Division III Wartburg) had the best day of the Bears' running backs, leading all players with 39 yards rushing for the White team on six carries.

Robert Holland rushed it 10 times for 28 yards to lead the Blue team's run game.

"We're in a much better place right now," Collins said when asked about his overall thoughts on the state of his program. "We're more multiple, we sustained some drives, Seth looked sharp. We've still got some work to do up front, with the [offensive] line and things like that, but … I don't let them cut [block] and do those types of things in spring ball or any kind of practice when we're going against our guys, so, there's a big difference there. Once they're able to get against another opponent and do full out what they need to do, we're going to be pretty successful.

"I think our team, as a whole, from defense, to offense to special teams, we're going to be a lot better this year coming up."

With the graduation of longtime-punter Cameron Kaman, Northern Colorado came into this spring looking for some answers at the position, and Dave Eden and Mason Puckett (both placekickers last season) displayed the first evidence of that experiment Saturday.

Eden had three punts for 121 yards while missing his only field-goal attempt from 53 yards away.

Puckett also missed a field-goal try (from 39 yards) but was dynamite in the punting game, sending four punts 242 yards (60.5 yards/per), including one that went 85 yards on the bounce.

"It's been a pretty consistent spring of guys making plays," Collins said. "We've still got a lot of work to do, but it's a lot better vibe, a lot better feeling of togetherness, guys getting along, guys wanting to play with each other this year, going into this 2012 season then there was in 2011.

"Hopefully that adds or leads to win, and we'll feel a lot better about what we're doing.

Collins and his program will begin to find out in August when they officially begin the 2012 season with fall camp. The Bears' 2012 season opener is scheduled for Thursday night, Aug. 30, against Utah, in a game that will be televised on the ESPN Network.