Offense Edges Defense in Football Spring Game, 37-33
Sophomore Lawrence Jones ran for three touchdowns and sophomore Brent Holman added two as Morehead State's Offense edged the Defense 37-33 in its annual Spring Game, presented by U.S. Bank, Saturday night at Jayne Stadium.
Sophomore Braylyn Cook sparkled on defense with a pair of interceptions and blocking a kick. He also broke up three passes and made two tackles.
"Pretty good," Eagles Coach Rob Tenyer said. "I thought it was a clean game. You know, we had a few offsides, stuff like that, but I felt like the kids played hard.
Defensively, we want to be a team that can take away the football, and we showed that we're going to be able to do that again, and that's exciting. And then obviously, offensively, when we've got the Player of the Year (quarterback Austin Gahafer) coming back and feel like we've got a really good stable of running backs.
Pretty consistent at our run-blocking right now. I feel like our two tight ends that we have are playing at a really elite level. You saw Jake Sutherland tonight make some outstanding plays in the pass game, and he's doing that as a run-blocker as well. Him and Joby Embrey both are playing at a high level. So those things, overall, are what stuck out."
The game format featured offense versus defense, with each side being able to score in a variety of ways. Offensive scores could come, as usual, by way of touchdown, field goal and point(s)-after conversions. The defense could score three points for a three-and-out stop, seven points for a turnover and two points for a safety.
The Eagles, whose 7-4 record last fall (6-2 Pioneer Football League) was their best in 10 years, saw their Defense take the upper hand early on, jumping to a 13-0 lead.
That came by way of a pair of three-and-out stops and a Matthew Brewer fumble recovery.
Justin Winn, who has switched from quarterback to safety, wound up leading the Eagles with seven tackles overall.
The offense recovered to take a 31-26 halftime lead. Holman and Jones each ran for a pair of short (inside the 10) TDs, while Matt Ward added a 32-yard field goal.
Jones, who missed last season due to an ACL injury, would finish with 71 yards on 12 carries. Holman, who ran for 407 yards and four TDs as a freshman last season, totaled 60 yards on 18 runs.
"As a unit, as a team, we worked really well," Jones said. "We all had our ups and downs, on offense and defense. But both sides responded to adversity, and that's the big thing we have to do this season, is when bad things happen, we have to be able to respond."
The defense added a pair of three-and-outs, plus an interception by Cook.
The biggest gainer of the half, which set up a 7-yard scoring run by Holman, was a 44-yard pass from Gahafer to Darius Pritchett. Gahafer would finish the game completing 9 of 16 passes for 150 yards. Overall, MSU hit on 19 of 37 passes for 243 yards.
"Offensive side of the ball was pretty good," Gahafer said. "We had a few turnovers, but that's always something we can fix."
In an abbreviated second half, Cook's second interception gave the Defense a 33-31 lead. Jones scored on a 10-yard run to give the Offense its final margin of victory. Cook got into the game early, breaking up a pass on the first play.
"They threw the ball right at me," said the junior-to-be from College Park, Ga. "I feel like I should have intercepted the ball."
Sutherland finished as the leading receiver, catching six balls for 61 yards. Jake Raymond had three receptions for 29 yards and ran for 23 yards on a reverse.
Tenyer also liked what he saw in the trenches.
"We're playing pretty good," he said. "We've got some guys that will be two- and three-year starters up front on the offensive line. C.J. Phillips is back. On the left side there, we've got Liam Maloney. He's a beast; he's playing really well right now.
And we've got some young guys in there that are coming along. Kyler Corbett, our center, was out for spring, and a redshirt freshman, Cam Bailey, stepped up and played extremely well. And we've just got some veteran guys. We've got a lot of guys with a lot of playing experience. We lost three seniors, but we didn't lose much. And I feel like we may be a little stronger and a little more improved in our run-blocking right now.
Defensively, we lost three seniors over there ... so we're finding some new guys over there to be playmakers. When you get new guys in there and they can become productive for you, that's good. And we've still got Colt Briggs, who's a defensive end, Dustin Casey on defense. They're both all-conference type kids. So I'm excited about how we played. I thought we rushed the quarterback well a few times. And what stuck out to me, is we went good-on-good today. So when the defense did something good, that was our best. And when the offense did something well, that was our best. That's what we want to be about."
The Eagles will open the regular season Sept. 3 at James Madison. MSU's home opener is set for Sept. 10 against Virginia Military Institute.