The offense of the Georgia Southern Eagles ran 105 plays (90 rushing and 15 passing) for 575 yards, scored five touchdowns, kicked a field goal and turned it over five times at Saturday’s scrimmage in Paulson Stadium.
In other words, it had its moments.
There were 16 different Eagles who carried the football on the ground, including four different quarterbacks, and each brought something different to the table.
The most impressive quarterback statline belonged to A.J. McCray, who ran it 10 times for 43 yards and completed two of three passing attempts for 78 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown strike to Robert Kilcrease, which would have been incomplete had defensive back Evan Mattingly not tipped it at the goal line.
McCray, along with the rest of the GSU offense, got more comfortable as the scrimmage moved on.
“It felt like we started slowing stuff down and let it come to us instead of rushing to it,” said McCray. “(The pitch) is the first read, reading the end lineman. Everything comes easy after that.”
Russell DeMasi was the top performer through the air, connecting on four of five passes for 86 yards and a pick.
Brent Osborn was the most balanced, rushing eight times for 31 yards and completing a pair of passes for 18 yards.
Jawaun Luckey got a bulk of the QB carries with 17, but several sacks and some backfield tackling by the defense left him with 28 yards rushing on the day.
“We’ve got three guys on one side when we run the triple option,” said GSU coach Jeff Monken about the defense of the offense. “One of those guys, we’ve got to block. One will account for the dive, one for the quarterback and one for the pitch, and we’ve got to block one of them. Sometimes we’re turning all three of them loose and then it’s not hard.”
Still, when the offense was clicking, Luckey gave the defense a handful.
“That number nine, he’s hard to tackle,” said defensive coordinator Brent Pry about Luckey. “That’s great work for us, having to tackle a guy like that in space. It was a step. We’ve got a lot of steps to take, but it was a step in the right direction.”
The defense owned the first half of the scrimmage, which featured big hits by linebacker Josh Rowe and defensive lineman Roderick Tinsley. The offense went three-and-out in five of the first 10 drives – which started on the 30-yard line – and turned it over four times in the span.
The first score of the day came on the 11th series, but it was a scooped up fumble ran back by the defense for six.
“We put a lot of balls on the ground out there today, and it’s scary,” Monken said. “It’s not good, and we’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
The offense finally found paydirt when Zeke Rozier (10 carries, 95 yards) took the first handoff of the 14th series 70 yards to the house.
After two more three-and-outs, the offense got it going, scoring on four of the next five drives. McCray’s TD pass was followed by a 24-yard scamper on an option pitch to Johnathan Bryant, which was set up by a 38-yard pass from DeMasi to Martin Weatherby.
On the next series, Nico Hickey took an option pitch 66 yards to the house.
“It’s all on the team,” said the sophomore slotback. “It was a great pitch by A.J., and I just ran as hard as I could.”
The day’s scoring was capped off with a 31-yard field goal by Tyler Rhodes.
Though there’s a long way to go before the season kicks off in September, one word used by many after the scrimmage was intensity. The team saw it from both sides of the ball.
“The option, it is a physical offense,” said Rowe. “Offense, defense, we all got out there tried to get after each other and play physical – hate each other on the field, love each other off the field.”
Practice resumes Monday at 3:45 p.m. on the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.