CORTLAND, N.Y. - It was a tale of two quarterbacks -- the good Mark Sanchez vs. the bad Mark Sanchez.
Thousands of Jets fans flocked to SUNY Cortland yesterday and hoped to see a battle between the fifth-year pro and rookie Geno Smith. Instead, they were treated to another reminder of just how maddening Sanchez can be.
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His outing began in painfully slow fashion -- two three-and-outs plus a sack by linebacker Calvin Pace. Then, in the early stages of the second half, Sanchez tripped as he tried to drop back and landed on his rear end. Within minutes, the awkward play was coined the "Butt Stumble" on social media, rehashing cruel memories of his infamous butt fumble against the Patriots.
Sanchez went on to overthrow a wide-open Clyde Gates in the end zone. He later was intercepted by cornerback Antonio Cromartie on an ill-advised deep throw to Vidal Hazelton.
He was booed by a crowd of 6,000 -- a flashback of sorts from the Jets' 2012 season. But in typical Sanchez fashion, he found a way to redeem himself, throwing a beautiful 53-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Hill to end the scrimmage.
"Mark definitely put it out there for me to go get it, especially on the run, so that was a great play," Hill said.
"It was nice to close it that way and finish strong," said Sanchez, who went 6-for-11 for 93 yards.
Unlike Sanchez, Smith (9-for-16, 77 yards) started well. But his promising opening drive with the first-team offense (against the first-team defense) was stalled by penalties near the end zone.
"I think it went well," said Smith, who was 5-for-9 for 45 yards in the first half and led the offense to three points (three drives with the first team, four total possessions). Sanchez, on the other hand, guided the team to 10 points in five possessions.
"I think we got a chance about two or three times in the red zone, weren't able to capitalize and get touchdowns,'' Smith said. That's something we'll need to improve on, but overall, I think we did a pretty good job."
Smith's start with the first-team offense was planned, keeping in line with their every-other-day QB rotation. Sanchez is expected to take reps with the starters the next two days.
Backup Greg McElroy was the star signal-caller of the day. He threw two touchdown passes -- a 47-yarder to Ryan Spadola, who was blanketed by cornerback Eric Crocker, and a 70-yard strike to a wide-open Hazelton.
"If you leave a guy open, he's going to make the play," Rex Ryan said of McElroy, who went 5-for-5 for 137 yards and split third-team reps with Matt Simms.
Ryan also praised the performance of running back Bilal Powell, who in the excused absence of Mike Goodson and injuries to Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Joe McKnight (head) churned out 41 yards on six carries.
Ryan said Saturday's scrimmage was the best the team has had in Cortland. But there was no clear-cut quarterback winner.
"Both of them did a great job," Cromartie said. "I think Geno completed some passes that sometimes you don't expect a rookie to complete. And Mark finished off with a great day."
"It was a very good test run," said Smith, who worked primarily out of the shotgun. And with the Jets' first preseason game just days away (Friday in Detroit), Saturday's scrimmage was a chance for new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to unleash his version of the West Coast offense -- with some Wildcat, bootleg and screen passes sprinkled in.
"We moved the ball in spurts, but more spurts than we've had before," Sanchez said. "So I think it probably was one of our best scrimmages . . . I thought the running game looked good, I thought some of our schemes looked good. Plenty of stuff to work on, but a good start."