AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s football team put the finishing touches on its spring practice, which sets up preparations for the Cougars to join NCAA Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference beginning in the fall. The Brick & Black scrimmage wrapped up spring camp, with the Black team registering a 27-6 win in the spring game.
“We do our spring practice a little earlier than most other schools, and that gives us a chance to get ahead in evaluating the talent we have,” said Cougar head coach Victor Santa Cruz, who was named the NAIA Independent Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year this past offseason. “The early start also gives our guys a leg up in being able to add muscle and strength over the summer without interruption, and it gives our guys a chance to take a long summer to heal up and get ready for the season.”
Tyler Tuiasosopo threw two TD passes to lead the Black team to the victory. Other scores came on a Miles Nelson one-yard scoring run, along with Greg Ehrhart’s 40-yard fumble recovery for TD. The Brick team’s lone score came on a 70-yard scoring dash for sophomore RB Ronald Douglas.
“Defensively, I saw a tangible flip from young guys becoming older guys during spring,” Santa Cruz said. “When you start spring ball, you still have the vision of your old team, and as the spring goes on you see the returning players develop and begin to assert themselves as the leaders and caretakers of the program. With our defensive leaders, there was a visible sense of responsibility in how they played.”
The Cougars’ spring camp featured record participation, with 100 student-athletes running through practices as the Cougar coaching staff evaluated returning and incoming talent while developing technique within Azusa Pacific’s offensive and defensive schemes.
“Our young secondary took big leaps forward in playing an aggressive style and playing a combination of man-to-man and zone coverage,” Santa Cruz said. “Our offensive line has to be the most mature group of the whole team, and they took a big step forward in their cohesiveness and technical soundness. It’s clear that they’re the driving force in our running game.”
That offense rushed for a school-record 3,915 yards in 2011 (326.2 yards per game) and also set the program’s single-season scoring record (45.6 points per game) and total offense (496.4 yards per game). The Cougars advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs, finished with a No. 5 national ranking, and produced 22 postseason honorees in various awards programs.
Azusa Pacific kicks off the season with a Thursday night visit to NCAA Div. I FCS program UC Davis on Aug. 30, and the Cougars’ GNAC opener takes place on the road the very next week at defending conference champion Humboldt State. Also coming up on the football calendar is the 6th Annual Cougar Football Golf Classic, which is scheduled for Monday, May 21, 2012, at the Glendora Country Club.