On Friday afternoon, the Kats scrimmaged with the offense going against the defense.
There were some bright moments for the Bearkats' offense as well as the defense. From scrimmaging, squads from both sides of the ball saw plenty that they can work on.
"We're disappointed in our effort to the ball and just our overall speed, the way we hit our blitzes and the way we reacted," defensive lineman Preston Sanders said. "We've just got to do better. We have to produce more."
Early on in the scrimmage, the Kats offense struggled to move the ball as dropped receptions negated positive yardage. Ball-hawking safety Robert Shaw also took advantage, jumped the route by the wide receiver and picked off an interception for a touchdown.
After a chance to settle down, quarterback Brian Bell and the offense started to click, using primarily the passing game with a newly installed no-huddle philosophy.
Bell hit a wide-open Richard Sincere on a play-action pass down the seam for a 67-yard score.
A little later on, Bell had to use a little creativity near the goal line and after scrambling hit Sincere in the corner of the end zone for a score.
Near midfield and with receivers covered, Bell scrambled and found running back Tim Flanders along the sideline, darting the pass for a 20-plus yard completion.
"For us, this is the first scrimmage where we used the 25- and 40-second play clock. I think it really opened our kids' eyes. Sometimes when guys hear no-huddle, they think they've got all the time in the world. One of the tougher things about it is that we may not be in the kind of shape we need to be in to do it right now," Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said. "It was good getting to work on it."
With the running game being one of the reasons for the Bearkats' run to the Football Championship Subdivision title game last fall, the offense has been working on developing the passing game a bit more this spring with new offensive coordinator Doug Ruse and wide receivers coach Matt Barrett.
"We're still having some mental mistakes. We've only been here for 13 practices and with a brand-new offense, there's a lot crammed in," wide receiver Trey Diller said. "Not much is different, though, with the formations and personnel packages or play calls, but it's the same exact designs and alignments that we had last year. Basically, we need to get rid of the mental errors."
Considering that the offense was able to execute for big plays down the field at times, especially once plays broke down, the defense knew that those plays should not have been made since it was able to get pressure on Bell.
"Like coach says, we're the hunted this year. We're not going to sneak up on anybody. We need to be twice as good as we were last year and right now, we're not," Sanders said.
"We're getting better every day."
With just two workouts remaining, Monday's practice and the Orange-White Spring Game next Wednesday, Fritz hopes to fine-tune a few more things next week before the spring session comes to an end.
"We're going to work on the kicking game, work on the play clock," the coach said.
"This has been really good for us to have this. We're running basically the same offense, but coach Ruse is putting his spin on it a little bit to get the players acclimated with the way he does things."
Spring ball will end Wednesday with the annual Orange-White spring game.
Festivities will start at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday with a tailgate party at Bearkat Alley north of the scoreboard. SHSU student activities will be handing out free food.
The "Bearkat Football Experience" begins at 6 p.m. as Huntsville area youth, Sam Houston students and Bearkat adult fans can participate in drills with the football team on the field at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium.
The Villas on Sycamore will hand out free "goodie bags" to the first 200 Sam Houston students who enter Bowers Stadium for the game.
The Orange-White scrimmage will begin at 7 p.m. During the scrimmage, members of Sam Houston fraternities and sororities will participate in special "Greek Games" during breaks in the game.
Format for the football scrimmage and team rosters will be announced early next week.
"Last year's Orange-White game attracted one of the largest crowds ever for a Bearkat football spring game," Fritz said. "The spirit and spark the fans at last year's Orange-White game started last year's team on a roll that carried us through the regular season and into the playoffs. Our players feed of our fans and we're looking forward to another great crowd."
There is no admission charge for the Orange-White Spring game.