After 15 full practices and scrimmages, the Georgia Southern football team brought its spring session to a close with the annual Blue-White game held Saturday afternoon at Paulson Stadium.
Defense is often a little bit ahead of the offense so early in the season and it showed for the Eagles. Instead of arranging a scoring system to pit a team of offensive players against a defensive side, the Eagles’ roster was divided up into a pair of balanced teams to allow for more traditional gameplay. Both sides had trouble sustaining drives, but the day ended with the White team boasting a 13-0 victory.
“What I saw was a bunch of guys who are comfortable with what we’re doing,” GS coach Chad Lunsford said. “Now, comfortable can be a bad thing if you get complacent, but that’s not what we’re doing. Being comfortable is allowing us to trust what we’re doing and then focusing in more on the little things that we can improve on from last year to this year.”
All told, the two offensive squads managed just 165 total rushing yards No one seemed to be able to find seams to run through with the exception of Matt LaRoache. The rising sophomore running back was easily the most productive runner of the day, grinding out 107 yards on 11 carries, including the game’s only touchdown.
Nicknamed ‘Speedy’, LaRoache was caught from behind on a fourth quarter run after breaking loose. But ‘Speedy’ got shifty a couple of plays later, stutter-stepping and weaving through tacklers to get inside the five before ultimately finishing his day with a 2-yard touchdown plunge.
“I guess I need to work on my breakaway speed,” LaRoache joked following the game. “But I’m happy with how the spring went for everyone. It was tough running out there, but that’s thanks to our defense. You get better when you have to try to find ways to run against those guys.”
Offensive numbers were curtailed a bit by quarterbacks being downed by touch instead of fighting for additional yardage, but there were plenty of instances where the special rules weren’t needed in order for the defense to dominate. Quarterback Shai Werts was stopped for a loss of six yards on the first play of the day and hulking defensive lineman Ty Phillips was able to rein in Werts for a sack early on.
For head coach Chad Lunsford, the final score was more about friendly competition than anything. With the Eagles wrapping up spring camp nearly a month earlier than usual, the focus now shifts to evaluating the spring and working in the weight and film rooms through the summer in anticipation of the 2019 season.
“It’s kind of tough to evaluate how you play as a team in that situation,” Lunsford said. “When you split your team into two, you’re really digging into the depth and the two teams just aren’t going to be as good.
“What we’re really looking for are how individuals react. A lot of guys got to play and we want to study the film to see who really steps up when they go from a regular practice to getting into a game situation.”
With spring practice behind them, the Eagles now have over four months before commencing fall camp. There won’t be any organized on-field practices until August, but a full summer of work awaits in other varieties.
“We preach ‘good to great’,” Lunsford said. “We’re looking at everything that we can do better this time around. Last season was good, but that 10-3 season could have been 7-6 if some things had gone differently.
“That’s what the next part of our preparation is about. We want to see the improvements in the weight room and we want to identify on film the things we need to do better if we want to put ourselves in better spots this season.”