PROVO — Despite inclement weather for the annual spring scrimmage, BYU quarterback Joe Critchlow was eager to make the best of the experience.
“The entire offense woke up today, and, as we were getting ready for the spring game, we didn’t care about the rain,” Critchlow said. “We wanted to come out here and prove something. We wanted to be able to show that we could execute, that we’ve worked hard and we’ve learned so much this spring. Even though we had a few mistakes out there, I feel like we showed that today.”
The sophomore QB led three scoring drives, including two for touchdowns, and completed 9 of 12 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in wet conditions Saturday before an estimated crowd of 8,000 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
During the scrimmage’s opening series, Critchlow connected on a deep ball with wide receiver Micah Simon, who made a one-handed, 43-yard reception.
“He made a great play on the ball. Incredible catch,” Critchlow said of Simon. “That got me going right at the beginning of the scrimmage. It’s always a great sign when your receiver can make a great play like that.”
Simon finished with four catches for 73 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass from Critchlow. Running back Squally Canada scored three rushing touchdowns while Zach Katoa recorded a team-high 17 carries for 86 yards.
How did first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes assess his players' performance?
“I thought it was OK. The thing I was most pleased with was we didn’t turn the ball over, which was a real positive. That will always be one of our top goals. We didn’t have any pre-snap penalties, which is a real positive. We had one holding penalty,” he said. “Overall, we moved the ball and we made some big plays. We didn’t make a lot of explosive guys but they grinded it out and scored a few times. Overall, it was a good finish but it could have been better.”
“It seemed like they scored a lot,” head coach Kalani Sitake said of the offense, though he acknowledged that the defense held out many of its projected starters and competed with a lot of young players.
“It was really competitive, and I saw a lot of guys get better,” Sitake said of the scrimmage.
Quarterbacks Beau Hoge and Zach Wilson had two drives apiece, with Wilson directing a 75-yard touchdown drive.
Hoge was 2 of 4 for 20 yards and he ran five times for 32 yards while Wilson was 4 of 7 for 29 yards and picked up 25 yards on three carries. The quarterbacks were live during the scrimmage, allowing them to display their running ability.
QBs Baylor Romney and Stacy Conner engineered one series apiece.
“They did a pretty good job today of staying poised with the rain. They hung in the pocket and made some great throws,” Simon said of the quarterbacks as a group. “They’ve been getting better throughout spring ball. I can’t wait for us to continue to work together and, once we get to fall camp, working every day.”
“We kept it basic. The team played well. We had good drives,” Wilson said. “The main thing was no turnovers. We scored the ball quite a bit. That’s a positive.”
Sitake liked what he saw from the offensive line, which opened big holes for the running backs.
“A lot of credit can go to the offensive line and the receivers blocking down field,” he said. “The running backs did a good job running the ball.”
Asked if the O-line is a strength of this team, he replied, “They have to be. We have one of the best offensive line coaches in the country as a coordinator and a great up-and-coming O-line coach, and there’s Dallas Reynolds as a graduate assistant. They better be good.”
The Cougars ran a few fly sweep plays with mixed results. While wide receiver Tariq Buchanan ran for 24 on one such play; wide receiver Inoke Lotulelei slipped twice and fell for a pair of one-yard losses.
Grimes, who called the game from the press box, said the offense didn’t play as well as he had seen during other practices.
“We ran the ball OK at times. Probably not as clean as we’ve been other times this spring,” he said. “It got a little bit better as the scrimmage went on. We didn’t throw and catch as well as we’ve done at other times this spring. The weather really didn’t have much to do with it, I don’t think. It might have been nerves — the first time for some of these guys to play in this stadium.”
With spring practices now concluded, the Cougars will soon begin offseason workouts, and they’ll reconvene in August for training camp. The season kicks off Sept. 1 at Arizona.
“We’ve gotten better every single day,” Wilson said. “The offense was new at first, but we’re getting used to things. Every single day we’ve improved. I think in the fall, we can have a lot of success with this offense.”