The White team defeated the Black team 21-17 in Saturday's mock game. (Bruce Nichols photo)
Updated: 6 p.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - As temperatures soared out of the unseasonable 70s Saturday afternoon and approached 85, No. 85 heated up his game during Saturday's Mock Game here at Georgetown College before an estimated crowd of 6,100.
Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Palmer and then vowed that his infamous checklist of weekly opponents will now consist of defensive coordinators instead of cornerbacks.
"It looked really good when we went down the field and hit a couple of passes in a row; it reminded me of '05. No matter what the defense was doing, we were throwing the ball at will and doing what we wanted to do," The Ocho said after he checked off a game-high seven catches for 78 yards. "I'm going to call them all and make sure they know it's not a disrespectful thing. It's a challenge thing for me and challenge to you. Now, you get your 11 to try and find a way to stop me."'
In the end, the white team of reserves did stop Ochocinco's black team of starters, 21-17.
Moments after dropping a wide open pass over the middle in the third quarter, wide receiver Jerome Simpson baked cornerback Jamar Fletcher down the right sideline to corral backup quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan's 63-yard touchdown catch to give White a 21-7 lead for what proved to be the winning score.
Palmer, quarterbacking the Black team of starters, responded by staging a reunion with Ochocinco. The Ocho on the next series danced for three sideline catches of 22 yards before he ripped past cornerback Geoff Pope on third and eight from the White 12. Pope fell down at the line of scrimmage as he was called for holding and Ochocinco still ran away from him for an easy touchdown in the back of the end zone to cut the White's lead to 21-14.
No question play was August shoddy, but there were things that weren't even on the wish list in last year's Mock Game, a drill that emphasizes the passing game.
Palmer didn't get sacked, wide receiver Chris Henry came up with another big play (a leaping take-and-grab 20-yarder on the sideline), and wide receiver Laveranues Coles was able to rest his aching back without a noticeable dropoff in the passing game.
And, when the offense went no-huddle three times, each time it pushed the ball down the field, including on the Ochocinco touchdown drive.
"I wouldn’t even call it hurry-up," The Ocho said. "That's how we looked of old. We never huddle up (except on third down). Carson looks at the defense on his own. It's one of the first times we did it live together. It felt good."
There was something old and something new. There was Ocho popping up out of the no-huddle for something old and for something new there was Palmer play-faking and doing a half rollout of the pocket, and getting enough time to make a completion even though the play broke down because the coverage didn't react as expected.
"We've got a little bit of that in there this year," Palmer said. "Just so the defense doesn’t always expect me to be five yards straight in back of the center."
Last year at this time The Ocho wasn't even on the field yet and he would have to agree with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski that his mind wasn't in it. But on Saturday he was over the middle, down the middle and on the sideline showing off his conditioning of a boxer.
Or as he said, "New name, same game."
"He had a lot of big catches. He continues to work extremely hard on the little things," Palmer said. "It paid off. He was in the right spot a lot. He was the right depths. He was running some crisp routes."
It did seem like the old days because not only did the Ocho make a couple of nostalgic leans and twists, but after it was over he also yapped about it underneath the stands.
"My bad is good," he said of last year. "A lot of receivers have never had 540 yards in a season. If you base what you saw last year on what I'm going to do this year, you're mistakenly wrong. I like to take the bulk of the blame on myself. If my grandmother was the quarterback, I should have had 1,000 yards. One of my mottos is I'm going to play two seasons in one as far as productivity. I owe us, the team, the city, and a lot of it is based off last year."
Palmer and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski were a little bit more subdued, although Palmer thought the protection was quite good for all three quarterbacks. Only end Antwan Odom had a sack.
"We needed the work and we got it and that was good," Palmer said. "It's not live after a live practice so you're still sore and you get to see what we're made of. It was good. It will be good to get a night off and get some rest (tomorrow.)"
Bratkowski, who was looking at the small things and the not the numbers on the stat sheet, didn’t think it was all that in sync.
"Today we weren't as sharp as we need to be," he said. "We missed some blitzes. We need to fix that."
He could have summed it up talking about Simpson, who dropped two balls and maybe could have had another. But he also had the big catch.
"We're looking for consistency from him," Bratkowski said.
He saw the Black team come out sluggish and not get a first down on its first three series to fall behind, 13-7 at halftime.
Palmer finally got it going in the last minute and a half of the second quarter with a no-huddle set that took the offense as far as the White 4-yard-line when wide receiver Chris Henry outjumped Pope on a 20-yard catch. Earlier in the drive, Palmer hooked up twice with Ochocinco, but The Ocho was called for offensive pass interference working on rookie cornerback Rico Murray as Palmer tried to hit him with a fade in the corner of the end zone.
With 10 seconds left on third down, Palmer had to get rid of the ball when no one was open, but rookie running back Bernard Scott dropped it wide open in the flat.
Early in the game, Pope broke up a comeback to Ochocinco on a third-and-three, and Palmer's short swing pass to wide receiver Andre Caldwell netted nothing.
Then early in the third series the offense suffered a delay of game before Palmer uncorked an interception to Ochocinco down the middle of the field when rookie safety Tom Nelson jumped up to grab a floater.
The White converted the turnover into Shayne Graham's 45-yard field goal for an 11-8 lead.
It took Jordan Palmer to quarterback the Black to its first first down, a 16-yard throw to wide receiver Maurice Purify on third-and-10 and then Jordan Palmer followed it up with a 15-yard pass to Henry. But the defense got a couple of nice plays from defensive end Chris Harrington against Scott on a run and Scott again on a screen pass as the stop gave the White a 13-6 lead.
But after a year it looked like the Bengals could only toss a salad, Saturday had to be a welcome sight to offense-starved Bengals fans. And if you didn't think so, The Ocho told you.
He even, politely, said the Bengals offense would be pretty good even without T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"The mindsets are different. We're physically in better shape," Ochocinco said. "I love T.J. to death.. T.J. is one hell of a receiver, but Vern (Coles) and T.J. are two different types of players. I'm glad to have Vern here."
The Ocho is already looking at the schedule and sees three AFC North games in the first five games of the season.
"For us, our success comes starting early and staying healthy," he said.
For starters, Saturday wasn't a bad catch.
LINEUP: The Black team in Saturday's Mock Game could have been rechristened the Palmers because the quarterback brothers headed the roster of starters.
Also working with the Black were guys emerging as key backups, such as fullback Jeremi Johnson, cornerback Morgan Trent, wide receiver Chris Henry, safety Chinedum Ndukwe and defensive linemen Tank Johnson and Michael Johnson.
Rookie running back Bernard Scott, who missed Friday night's intrasquad scrimmage with a shoulder problem, got the nod with the Black team behind Cedric Benson and with James Johnson. Running back Kenny Watson, who missed Friday because of illness, was in the white backfield with DeDe Dorssey and Marlon Lucky.
Not playing for the second straight day were linebackers Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga, and Brandon Johnson, as well as safety Corey Lynch, offensive linemen Dan Santucci and Evan Mathis, tight ends Ben Utecht and Daniel Coats, and defensive linemen Frostee Rucker.
Wide receiver Antonio Chatman, who hurt his lower leg Friday, was out. So was cornerback Johnathan Joseph (thigh bruise).
MOCK GAME STATS
FINAL INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS — WHITE JERSEY TEAM
RUSHING (attempts-yards) — J.O’Sullivan 2-10 (10 long), D.Dorsey 2-6 (5 long), B.Leonard 1-0, K.Watson 1-0.
RECEIVING (receptions-yards) — J.Simpson 2-68 (63 long, 1 TD), K.Watson 1-9, Q.Cosby 1-7, D.Dorsey 1-4.
PASSING (attempts-completions-yards-TDs-INTs) — O’Sullivan 14-5-88-1-0, J.Palmer* 0-1-0-0-0.
DEFENSE (solos-assists-total) — J.Maxwell 6-2-8, G.Pope 4-1-5 (2 passes defensed), K.Hebert 4-0-4, T.Nelson 3-1-4 (1 INT for 25 yards, 1 pass defensed), J.Fletcher 2-0-2, R.Murray 1-1-2, D.Skuta 1-1-2, D.Blackstock 1-0-1 (1 sack for 2 yards), C.Harrington 1-0-1 (1 pass defensed), C.McDonald 0-1-1, J.Shirley 0-1-1.
PUNTING (no.-yards) — K.Huber* 4-155 (38.8 avg., 49 long, 2 inside-20s, 0 touchbacks).
FIELD GOALS (made-attempts) — S.Graham* 1-1 (45G).
TEAM FIRST DOWNS (no.) — 2 (1 rushing, 1 passing, 0 penalty).
THIRD-DOWNS (conversions-attempts) — 2 of 6.
FOURTH-DOWNS (conversions-attempts) — 0-0.
TEAM PENALTIES (no.-yards) — 1-0 (holding?; yards not assessed).
FINAL INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS — BLACK JERSEY TEAM
RUSHING (attempts-yards) — Ja.Johnson 3-14 (12 long), C.Benson 1-5, B.Scott 3-(-1) (2 long).
RECEIVING (receptions-yards) — C.Ochocinco 7-78 (19 long, 1 TD), M.Purify 3-63 (41 long), C.Henry 3-42 (20 long), A.Caldwell 3-21 (12 long), C.Coffman 4-20 (7 long), B.Scott 2-0 (3 long), Ja.Johnson 1-10.
PASSING (attempts-completions-yards-TDs-INTs) — C.Palmer 17-12-131-1-1, J.Palmer* 14-10-103-0-0.
DEFENSE (solos-assists-total) — L.Hall 2-0-2 (1 pass defensed), A.Hodge 2-0-2, A.Odom 2-0-2 (1 sack for 0 yards), M.Trent 1-0-1 (1 pass defensed), C.Ndukwe 1-0-1, Dh.Jones 0-1-1, D.Peko 0-1-1, M.Johnson 0-0-0 (1 pass defensed).
PUNTING (no.-yards) — K.Huber* 2-103 (51.5 avg., 52 long, 1 inside-20s, 0 touchbacks).
FIELD GOALS (made-attempts) — None.
TEAM FIRST DOWNS (no.) — 12 (1 rushing, 11 passing, 0 penalty).
THIRD-DOWNS (conversions-attempts) — 3 of 7.
FOURTH-DOWNS (conversions-attempts) — 0-1.
TEAM PENALTIES (no.-yards) — 2-15 (delay of game, defensive holding).
* NOTE: An asterisk denotes a player who had statistics for both the white and black jersey teams, and thus has two different totals for each team.