The Beavers moved inside Reser Stadium for Saturday evening's practice, their second of the day. Naturally it was a bit chillier than the hot, midday practices they've had throughout the week. It was also a bit less intense, as players were not in full gear for the first time since Thursday.
Without a doubt, the practice belonged to the defense.
The practice focused primarily on third-down situations, whether in 11-on-11 team sessions or 7-on-7. The coaches would have the chains set to the situation they wanted, usually a third-and-3 or third-and-7 or so. So the fact that the defense knew to expect a pass - (usually ineffective) draws were the only running plays ran - certainly helped their cause.
The defense racked up four interceptions: one by cornerback Steven Nelson, one by cornerback Larry Scott, one by defensive tackle Noke Tago and one by safety Micah Audiss.
Though Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz completed their fair share of passes, they didn't have many attempts down the field. Most of the passing game involved the tight ends and running backs, and these dump-offs often came up short of the first-down marker (though it's always tough to tell when the defense isn't allowed to bring the ball carrier to the ground).
The defense did a particularly good job bottling up the screen game. Several times Vaz and Mannion were forced to throw the ball into the ground because the defense sniffed out a screen play, and Brandin Cooks had nowhere to run the one time he caught a bubble screen.
Vaz, working primarily with the second team (Vaz and Mannion have gone back and forth throughout the week), struggled throughout the evening. During 7-on-7, Vaz threw a bad ball that was intercepted by Audiss and might have been a pick-six in a game. Scott picked Vaz off several minutes later during team, but that was more the fault of the receiver's fault than Vaz.
And then there was the screen pass Vaz threw directly into the hands of defensive tackle Noke Tago, which induced the biggest roar of the evening. Any time a 300-pound defensive lineman finds the ball in their hands, it's a prime candidate for play of the day.
Mannion was picked off, too, when Steven Nelson jumped an out route intended for freshman Hunter Jarmon during 7-on-7.
Starting cornerback Rashaad Reynolds had several nice pass break-ups, and reserve cornerback Malcolm Marable almost came up with an interception when he jumped a Vaz pass intended for Victor Bolden near the sideline.
Overall it was a great day for the secondary, which was without starting safety Tyrequeck Zimmerman, who did not practice for reasons unknown. Redshirt freshman Cyril Noland-Lewis filled in for Zimmerman on the first-team defense.
From an offensive standpoint, tight end Connor Hamlett and Obum Gwacham had nice evenings. Hamlett had several nice catches in traffic, and Gwacham beat his man for first-down catches a few times. Cooks caught a few balls, but didn't see nearly as many plays called for him as usual.
The play of the day for the offense was a completion down the seam to Kellen Clute, who got past the secondary and was off to the races after catching a perfectly thrown ball by Vaz. Other than that, there weren't many big plays made by the offense.
• Players and coaches are not available to the media following evening practices.
• Among those sitting out Saturday's evening practice: WR Micah Hatfield (hamstring), WR Kevin Cummings (hamstring), WR Richard Mullaney (hip pointer), TE Caleb Smith, TE Will Hopkins, TE Tyler Perry, TE Tyrequek Zimmerman, FB Tyler Anderson.
• The Beavers will return to the field Monday at 11 a.m. after a day off Sunday.