Out of 95 plays, there were a couple of long passes, some chunks of yards on the ground, two touchdowns, two field goals and a whole bunch of turnovers.
The Georgia Southern Eagles went 11-on-11 in full pads Saturday morning at Beautiful Eagle Creek for a majority of practice, and it was apparent that the defense was a step ahead.
“We missed a lot of reads, and we pitched off of some people we shouldn’t be pitching off of,” said GSU coach Jeff Monken. “It’s only the fourth day, so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I wish they’d have been better, they’re going to get better and it’s not good yet.”
Four quarterbacks – Jawaun Luckey, A.J. McCray, Russell DeMasi and Brent Osborn – rotated in leading the offense with different groups of running backs and wide receivers.
“We don’t have a depth chart yet really set in stone,” Monken said. “We wanted to give as many of those quarterbacks an opportunity to go with the best offensive line, and the running backs as well. Next week when we have a full scrimmage, we’ll have an idea of who’s the ones, who’s the twos, who’s the threes and who’s everybody else. We’ll have that established by next Saturday.”
Luckey led the offense to its first appearance in the red zone, stringing together a first down on three-consecutive keepers before completing a pass down the sideline to slotback Nico Hickey. The drive ended after a first-down run by Luckey was capped off with a fumble that was recovered by redshirt-freshman defensive back John Stevenson.
“Luckey made some good runs out there,” said Monken. “Ball security wasn’t very good. He put one on the ground and if (the defense) would have put their hands on it or their head on it he would have had more knocked out. He’s got to take care of the ball, but there’s a little spark in him.”
Luckey said the team is still catching up after switching to full pads Thursday.
“It’s the speed of the game,” said the junior quarterback transfer. “Things are starting to slow down for me as we get a better understanding of what’s going on. Guys are trying to fly around and get big hits, so it’s just adjusting to what we’re trying to do.”
The offense found paydirt for the first time led mostly by the arm of Osborn. He completed four passed on a drive including a connection with slotback Bryan Wilcher to set up a touchdown. A pitch to Alex Bradford found the end zone from five yards out.
Chris Teal took a pitch five yards to the goal line on the next series, and fullback Tobi Akinnirayne punched it in for the second score.
After that, there was a long pass attempt by McCray picked off by Carson Hill on the sideline and a some fumbled snaps at the line of scrimmage that highlighted the day.
“We used the chains so we could see the drives, and they stopped them,” Monken said about the defense. “They got them off the field, which is important. They played with some energy and some enthusiasm which I liked. When you’re stopping them and having some success, you’re going to get excited, and they kind of fed off that.”
“As long as both sides are making plays and we execute – execution is the most important thing – we don’t want to think of it as practice, we want to prepare for a real game,” added Luckey. “Everybody’s excited and going as full speed as they can.”
Fullback Brandon Nolley missed practice during the week to illness and returned to action Saturday, so he feels like he’s got even more catching up to do.
“I haven’t really been out here to see what’s been going on,” Nolley said. “Today was pretty much a slow day for me because I didn’t know all the plays, but once I learn the plays I’ll be going pretty good.”
While there have been no major injuries through week one, there have been a few minor bumps and bruises. Offensive lineman Brandavious Mann sat out the remainder Saturday after being shaken up, Teal played through a pulled muscle, safety Derek Heyden has a cast on a broken bone in his hand and walk-on cornerback Brandon Lane broke his hand during the first day in pads Thursday.
The Eagles will head back to the practice fields Monday at 3:45 p.m.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.