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TIMES-DISPATCH : One success out of failure for Spurrier


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One success out of failure for Spurrier

JOHN MARKON

TIMES-DISPATCH COLUMNIST Aug 10, 2003

http://www.timesdispatch.com/sports/MGBC072J6JD.html

Contact John Markon at (804) 649-6892 or jmarkon@timesdispatch.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Official water-cooler conversation topics following the Washington Redskins' exhibition opener, a 20-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers last night at Ericsson Stadium:

Criticized last season for making excessive use of his regulars in order to win exhibition games, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier promised he'd be quick with the hook and was, pulling every starter by the first snap of the second period.

Not that Spurrier's starters were in any danger of winning.

"We pretty much got dominated," Spurrier said. "That's quite a change from being dominant, but no one can say we tried too hard to win."

To make it simple, Washington's first-team defense played two series and failed to force a punt. The Redskins' first-string offense was on the field for three series, producing only one first down.

"On defense, we did a few good things and kept them out of the end zone for a while," was Spurrier's instant analysis. "On offense, we were just pretty bad."

Spurrier had his own team scouted well, saying before the game that he felt Washington's quarterbacks and receivers hadn't been practicing well and were capable of "stinking it up."

Starting QB Patrick Ramsey (2 of 5, 57 yards) and high-priced free agent wideout Laveranues Coles did hook up on a 48-yard pass play that was the start and finish of the Skins' highlight package.

Stephen Davis, the erstwhile Redskins running back, insisted all week that he wouldn't waste any motivational revenge against his former employers on a mere exhibition game.

"Let's just not go there," said Davis before kickoff. "It's the first preseason game. It's not like I'm going to run for 100 yards or anything like that."

He actually didn't miss triple figures by that much, carrying seven times for 74 yards and leaving cleat marks up the backs of several Redskins, most notably cornerback Fred Smoot.

Imagine what Davis could have done had he been motivated.

"He was going right through us," Spurrier said. "I thought he was averaging 20 yards per carry for a while there."

Davis, pushed out in Washington when Spurrier decided the high-salaried power runner didn't fit into the "Fun and Gun" passing game, had to enjoy the Panthers' first play from scrimmage. Lining up as a receiver, he caught a pass in front of linebacker Jesse Armstead for a 13-yard gain.

"I feel great," Davis said. "This is just the start, but it sets the tempo for us."

Skip Hicks, another back deemed expendable by the Redskins, also partied against his ex-teammates, rolling up the middle for a 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

The scouting report on Rob Johnson, Washington's new backup quarterback, always has been that he makes bad decisions under pressure. He made enough of them last night to make you wonder if Spurrier favorite Danny Wuerffel won't be the No. 2 QB by the time the Skins face the New York Jets in the Sept. 4 regular season opener.

Johnson (10 of 16, 107 yards, three turnovers) was charged with a fumble in the second quarter when he failed to tuck the ball away during a sack. He set up a Panthers touchdown in the third period when one of his passes was intercepted by Kavika Pittman, a defensive end.

Spurrier's insisting that the Redskins will have a running game, but there was no sign of it last night. Washington rushed for only 11 yards in the first half and attempted only one running play on a third down and short.

On third and 2 from the Carolina 46 late in the first period, Trung Canidate gained a yard up the middle. On two similar situations in the second quarter, the Skins didn't bother with the pretense of a rushing threat and lined up without a running back.

Sharp-eyed observers may have noted the presence of former University of Virginia receiver/returner Terrence Wilkins, a early-summer pickup by the Panthers. Running back Rod Smart, who scored the first Carolina touchdown, also is the same guy who wore "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey during the XFL's first and only season.

The Skins return to Ericsson on Nov. 16 for a game that will count in the standings.

"If I have anything to say," Davis said, "I'll say it on the field that day."

Contact John Markon at (804) 649-6891 or jmarkon@timesdispatch.com

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