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Brown 46, White 37, Final

(Photo Credit: Kevin Mingora/The Morning Call/April 20th, 2013)

By any measure the defense probably had more of its share of concern - and attention from coaches and fans alike - in this Spring season.

They had heard the issues all Spring long - the fact that only three starters returned on defense, including four new starters in the secondary and three new starters on the defensive line.

“The defense needs to get better,” Coen said in the release before the Brown/White game. “They didn’t perform very well in our last scrimmage and our coaches have challenged them."

The defensive Brown team, led by new team captains senior LB Nigel Muhammad and senior FS Tyler Ward, responded to the challenge.

Using a modified scoring system, the Brown defense scored 14 points off of sacks and 12 points off of turnovers as the defense put up a solid performance in a 46-37 victory.

"I was really happy to see the defense step up," Coen said after the game.  "We saw a lot of good things today.  It shows me we're definitely moving in the right direction.  The defense is a pretty young group of guys. They definitely took strides today and that excites me as we move into the next phase here. It shows that there’s some leadership over there. The kids are taking the coaching very well. There’s talent there, it’s just a matter of getting the repetitions. Some guys are playing new positions and there are going to be some growing pains." 

"Coach always lets the offense know when they do well and the defense know when they do bad," Muhammad joked after the game.  "This last week the players and coaching staff did a good job of really putting everything together and meshing well together."

Before the game the 2013 team captains were announced, which were Muhammad, Ward, senior RB Keith Sherman and senior WR Lee Kurfis on a sunny, but very windy, morning that didn't exactly see fans sunbathing on the end zone grass.

In addition, Ward received the Jim Gum scholarship, which is awarded to the player that best exemplifies the former Penn Argyl and Lehigh football player who died after a battle with ALS.

Wearing red mesh jerseys to make sure they didn't get contact, senior QB Brandon Bialkowski took the ball with the first team offense, and promptly got intercepted on the first series by senior SS Rickie Hill, who probably could have been considered the MVP of the Brown/White game with 7 tackles (6 solo), a sack, and and interception.

Hill was one of the players named by Muhammad after the game.

"Ward, Hill, senior CB Courtney Jarvis... we have leaders at each position.  We have to step up and lead the team.  When the intensity is up, it's always good, and we can always run off of that.  We have a lot to build off of into next season from this game going forward."

On defense there were plenty of other stars on the morning, including sophomore LB D.J. Bourgeois, with 3 tackles and 2 sacks, senior LB Cody Raup with 6 tackles, and Ward, who stopped a White drive with a heady interception on the sideline next to the 4 yard line.

That wasn't to say that the White team was devoid of highlights.

New offensive captain senior RB Keith Sherman overcame an early fumble and led the Brown team with 59 yards on 11 carries, including a 16 yard run.  As the practice wore on he seemed to get stronger, an encouraging sign as to how he might be during the 2013 regular season.

"He ground out some tough yards today," Coen said.  "He's a tough guy, and sophomore RB Rich Sodeke did a nice job too."

It also was a good reflection on the offensive line, which got strong reviews all spring and had to adjust on the fly Saturday morning when junior OL Wenner Nunes left with an injury but still recovered well on the first line after shuffling some bodies around unexpectedly.

"The first group was pretty solid," Coen said, "but gave up some sacks with the second.  Some of the sacks came when the quarterback should have thrown the ball away, but took the sack.  But overall I was pleased."

Senior QB Brandon Bialkowski led the first team offense, and while he obviously wasn't pleased with his interceptions, he did provide the biggest offensive highlight on the afternoon in the form of a beautifully thrown pass to junior WR Derek Gaul over the left shoulder for one of the offenses' two touchdowns.

Bialkowski ended the morning 12 of 22 passing for 114 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions on a very windy morning.

"We came out kind of slow and made a couple of mistakes," Bialkowski said after the game.  "But we came back and were resilient and showed that we can make some plays. I thought it was a pretty good scrimmage."

If Bialkowski is the starting quarterback this fall, he'll be the second straight senior starter at that position, following in the footsteps of QB Michael Colvin, who may very well be spending time in an NFL camp this fall.

"Mike has taught me a lot about the mental part of playing quarterback," he said. "He's a really tough kid and I enjoyed working under him. I plan to be ready when the season begins. I plan to have a productive summer and a lot of the guys will be staying around and we'll be throwing all summer long."

Junior QB Matt McHale and junior QB Gerard Poutier also got in plenty of reps as well with McHale notching the other touchdown in the game and Poutier going an efficient 8 for 13 with no turnovers.

Gaul (5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD) and sophomore WR Stephen Sansone (4 catches, 64 yards) also stood out on the morning, with senior WR Sergio Fernandez-Soto and junior WR Josh Parris getting limited time, and Kurfis being held out due to a minor injury.

Overall the Spring season ended on a good note, with the defense stepping up big after being fiercely challenged by the coaching staff and each other.  It will serve them well as they go into the voluntary summer workout period, and into the preseason camp in August, to make their final preparations for the upcoming season.

“I told the kids we’re not where we need to be,” Coen said. “We’re probably an average football team right now. But, we have a lot of time in the summer to get better and work everything out.  We're going to have a lot of our guys back here over the summer, which is great.  August 7th will be here before you know it.”


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