Saturday morning at Paulson Stadium, it was the first scrimmage of the fall, and that was the case for everyone — players, coaches, even referees.
That was evident the only time the Georgia Southern offense got the ball into the end zone. Quarterback Ezayi “Izzy” Youyoute faked a handoff to quarterback Jerick McKinnon — who was in on the play as a running back — and kept it for a touchdown.
The only problem was that everyone on the field thought McKinnon had the ball, so an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead before Youyoute scored.
The only scoring during the scrimmage came from a pair of field goals, a 34-yarder by freshman Cole Allison and a 31-yarder by freshman Alex Hanks.
Allison also attempted a 52-yard field goal, but it was cleanly blocked by sophomore cornerback Valdon Cooper, a transfer from Illinois.
The offense combined for 234 rushing yards on 76 attempts, and 6 of 16 passing for 135 yards. One of the longest plays was an athletic, one-handed catch and run out of the backfield by recently-converted B-back Nardo Govan, a 6-foot-2, 236-pound freshman from Savannah Christian.
“It was a high pass and he kind of tipped it up to himself,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said about Govan’s reception. “He’s such a big kid. He’s a fast, big kid, and those guys don’t come around very often.”
Several players, including starting B-back Dominique Swope, didn’t participate in the scrimmage due to injury.
Swope is expected to return to practice Wednesday.
A-back Robert Brown, who recently recovered from offseason back surgery, sat out with a pulled groin. B-back Seon Jones, defensive backs Javonte Martin and Josh King, and offensive linemen Trevor McBurnett and Jeff Ward also did not participate.
There were some big plays on both sides of the ball, but the closest the offense came to scoring was a drive that got all the way down to the 1-yard line. The snap from the 1 sailed over Youyoute’s head.
“We just didn’t finish,” said Youyoute. “We drove the ball well, getting down the field and getting first downs. We hit some big plays, but it was disappointing that we couldn’t finish.”
Defense held strong, for the most part.
“I think everybody showed up here with the right mentality,” said senior defensive tackle and preseason Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Brent Russell. “It’s Paulson Stadium. We have a tradition to uphold out here. It’s just a different mindset once you touch this field. You play hard, you don’t loaf and you get after people.”
McKinnon started the scrimmage at quarterback and also took snaps at A-back, and both he and Youyoute, as expected, spent time with the starters.
Senior quarterback Russell DeMasi kept the offense moving at times, and freshman quarterback Matt Dobson made some nice throws and runs.
As it stands now, Dobson is next on the depth chart behind Youyoute and McKinnon.
“You’ve got to set an order on who goes in there first, so you can read between the lines there,” said Monken. “(Dobson) was the first one to go with the threes, so he’s probably ahead of those other guys there a little bit.”
The Eagles return to Beautiful Eagle Creek for a practice session today at 3:45 p.m., and will have a two-a-day Monday at 9 a.m. and 4:33 p.m.