After two weeks of practice, the Georgia Southern football team was finally able to get into more of a game situation as it scrimmaged for over an hour Friday evening at Paulson Stadium.
The defense got the better of the offense for most of the night, but the Eagles’ newly reborn option attack was able to land a few big blows and the general consensus was that it had been a productive practice for both sides of the ball.
“I think we saw a lot of energy,” GS coach Tyson Summers said. “There are things we need to do a better job of, but we feel good about where we are nine practices in.”
A fan base that was troubled by a sputtering run game in 2016 was brought to its feet when running back Monteo Garrett - formerly a quarterback for the Eagles - took a dive handoff on his first touch of the night and raced over 50 yards.
Garrett later got in on the back half of the option game, taking a 4th-and-2 quick pitch from Shai Werts and racing around the right end for a 35-yard touchdown.
“We had some big plays,” Garrett said. “Overall, there are things we need to work on and the defense did good, but we’ve got a long way to go. Each day, you get better or you get worse.”
Georgia Southern also showed its teeth in the aerial game.
LaBaron Anthony capped off his first drive of the night with a 15-yard touchdown toss to D’Ondre Glenn. A few minutes later, Anthony used a pair of successful option runs to get the defense to crash down on a play fake before lobbing the ball downfield to a wide open Obe Fortune for a 70-yard strike.
“From a defensive standpoint, we had too many big plays early,” Summers said. “Offensively, we made some plays but also put it on the ground too much. If we want to be dominant in the run game and turnover battle, we can’t do that.”
After some early fireworks, the defense started to clamp down.
Regardless of the portion of the depth chart that was in the game, the defensive front was able to stand its ground on running plays and often forced quarterbacks into hurried throws.
“It feels great to get out there and go,” defensive end Logan Hunt said. “We’re a little thin (on the defensive line) and that’s a challenge. But that’s a challenge we’re going to deal with and get through.”
After working out the initial struggles that led to receivers running open downfield, the secondary — which is still young but now much more experienced after being tested last year — stuck tight on receivers through their routes and pulled down a pair of interceptions.
And while some pitches and fancy quarterback footwork still kept the ball moving on the ground, there were more than a few perfectly read plays that led to big hits that got the crowd going.
“The defense did great — the offense, not too good,” Werts said. “There will be days like today. You don’t want it, but that’s where you learn. When there’s a chance to make a play, you’ve got to make it.”
The Eagles will enjoy an off day Saturday before getting back to work Sunday morning. Two more scrimmages are scheduled before Georgia Southern is slated to kick off its season Sept. 2 at Auburn.