Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden have come a long way in a year.
The two bright-eyed rookies who took turns staring at Hall of Fame busts during last summer’s rookie symposium are now established starters and franchise cornerstones.
So when they meet again Saturday night, Luck and Weeden will be following a different preseason script — playing at least one half and likely into the third quarter as they try to fine-tune their offenses before the scores and games start counting.
“This is the dress rehearsal, the most extended time, a chance to really go out there and hopefully put some good stuff on tape and if it’s not all good, a chance to fix it before the opener,” Luck said. “So there’s a lot of focus going into this game.”
Not just for the starting quarterbacks in Indianapolis and Cleveland, either.
The Colts (1-1), like most NFL teams, spent this week simulating a regular-season schedule of team meetings, practice and mapping out game plans.
Even longtime veterans such as Robert Mathis and Cory Redding understand this is the one preseason game that matters most.
While nobody should expect to see a flurry of trick plays or complex blitz packages, most starters will stay on the field longer and those on the cut line will get one last chance to impress coaches before the cut down to 75.
For Luck and Weeden, there are other things to work on.
Both are still getting accustomed to new offenses and new offensive coordinators.
Weeden, who had to win a quarterback competition for the second straight year, has led Cleveland (2-0) on six scoring drives in two games and will be out to prove that new coach Rob Chudzinski made the right call after selecting him as the starter Tuesday.
“I’ve worked hard. I’m excited about what we have going on and our progress,” Weeden said. “Now we just got to keep it rolling. We got to keep going. I feel comfortable. I’m excited. I love this system.”
Luck has never had to contend with that sort of challenge.
He became the incumbent the instant Indy parted ways with Peyton Manning and decided to take Luck with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
But, like Weeden, he’s been far from perfect. Luck came into training camp with three primary goals: Improving his completion percentage, reducing the number of interceptions and winning more games.
But a rash of injuries has made it tough to show the improvement.
Indy is keeping its top two tight ends — Dwayne Allen (right foot) and Coby Fleener (right knee) — on the sideline Saturday. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw (right foot) will miss his third straight game, too, and now starting guard Mike McGlynn will sit out with a bruised knee.
“I think we’ll make some adjustments to really accommodate some of the looks that we expect from Cleveland,” Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “But it’s still our goal to go out and be efficient as an offense.”
Weeden also has a tough task after losing two key running backs with injuries — Dion Lewis (broken leg) and Montario Hardesty (knee surgery) — and working with a receiving group that is still trying to prove itself.
Running back Trent Richardson made his preseason debut last week, and Brandon Jackson, who is trying to win the job as Richardson’s backup, is likely to get extensive playing time against the Colts.
Cleveland also will be without first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo, who is recovering from a bruised lung.
Those aren’t concerns for the 30-year-old Weeden, who remains confident he can get the job done.
“I wasn’t worried about my end of the stick,” he said. “I knew I was going to do what it took for me to get better in the offseason to do the things that I needed to do. I wasn’t concerned about me. It was just proving to those guys (coaches and teammates) that that hard work did pay off.”
Luck owns one win over Weeden, having beaten the Browns 17-13 last October.
And while winning is always a priority for Luck, the Colts’ franchise quarterback now understands the most important facet of Saturday night’s game is getting the offense in sync in its last real tuneup before the Sept. 8 season opener against Oakland.
“We’ve been game-planning almost to the point as if it was a regular season game,” Luck said. “It’s a chance to play at home again for the last time before the home opener is big, so definitely, definitely echo that same sentiment.”
Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden have come a long way in a year.
BOYS BASKETBALL: East outlasts MASH to reach final
Unfortunately, Mark McElhinny’s biggest fear entering his debut as Meadville’s head basketball coach surfaced:
The Bulldogs’ youth factor came into play — at the worst time, in the fourth quarter.
Committing eight turnovers and showing fatique signs in the final period, the youth-laden Bulldogs were outscored 22-17 as Erie East spoiled McElihinny’s first game on the MASH bench with a 65-60 win in the opening round of the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament on Friday night at the House of Thrills.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Falcons move into title game
A youth-laden Conneaut boys basketball team had a well-seasoned Central Tech squad right within striking distance after one half. But the Falcons spread their wings in half No. 2 to claim a 56-34 victory over the Eagles during Friday night’s action at the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Slow start dooms Lady Bulldogs
It seems that the Meadville girls basketball team needed a couple quarters to get into the groove for the 2013-14 season.
In the second half of Friday night’s game at the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament at Meadville High School, the Lady Bulldogs actually beat Central Tech 21-14.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Seneca too tough for Panthers
There was no wading into the pool for the sophomore-stocked Saegertown girls basketball team.
The young Lady Panthers opened the season against a bigger, more experienced opponent. And it showed on the scoreboard, as Seneca downed the Panthers 59-35 in the opening game of the Sertoma Tipoff Tournament on Friday at Meadville High School’s House of Thrills.
COLLEGE WRESTLING: Fighting Scots just miss out on upset of Iowa
It was nearly 50 minutes prior to the start of the Edinboro versus Iowa NCAA Division I wrestling match on Thursday night and the stands at McComb Fieldhouse were already nearly full.
That crowd, however, later announced at a whopping 3,152, was relatively quiet in the early going. Then Edinboro All-American A.J. Schopp took the mat. Just two minutes in that crowd turned deafening.
NBA: Irving, Cavaliers snap Nuggets' win streak 98-88
Kyrie Irving scored 23 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped the Denver Nuggets’ seven-game winning streak with a 98-88 victory Wednesday night.
NHL: Crosby ties it in 3rd, wins it in OT for Pens
Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal in the third period and then won it with a brilliant individual effort 3:44 into overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Tuesday night.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No rest for Buckeyes, who face another must-win game
There was a time when Ohio State players could look forward to a break after trading bruises with archrival Michigan.
Not anymore. At least, not this year.
LOCAL ATHLETES: Pair of locals lead Behrend in the pool
A pair of Penn State Behrend freshmen were in action Nov. 26, as Meadville graduate Holcy Furlong and General McLane grad Lloyd Koester each took part in four events for the swimming and diving team against Gannon.
Bryant’s overtime field goal lifts Falcons over Bills
The Falcons made the Bills unravel in Buffalo’s home away from home.
Atlanta took advantage of two fumbles to pull out a 34-31 win on Matt Bryant’s 36-yard field goal 3 minutes into overtime in Buffalo’s annual home game at Toronto on Sunday.
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