Georgia State’s defense dominated the offense and special teams during Saturday’s scrimmage.
The offense, playing long stretches without several key starters at the skill positions, scored three rushing touchdowns and the special teams missed or had blocked three point-after attempts and a field goal.
Coach Bill Curry said it was difficult to tell if Saturday was a result of the defense playing well or the offense playing poorly. He did praise the defensive line, led by redshirt sophomore John Kelly, who had numerous sacks.
“Defense did play really hard and with enthusiasm, but when the offense is struggling to that extent it’s really hard to tell,” he said. “You’d love to have really good execution on both sides and put the defense in a lot of tough situations but the offense wasn’t able to do that today.”
Defensive coordinator Anthony Midget said he was happy that the defense played well throughout the scrimmage, which it didn’t do on Wednesday. The offense dominated that first half, which was devoted to situations inside the 20-yard line, before the defense rallied in the full-field situations in the scrimmage’s second half. Midget said wants the players to understand that the expectation is to play as hard as they did Saturday all the time.
“We gave up a play or two here or there, but we bounced back and our guys let it go,” Midget said. “Up front, we are stopping the run and that’s the focus. The guys played really physically.”
Projected starting quarterback Ben McLane struggled for the third consecutive practice. He completed 5-of-9 passes for 98 yards, but 73 came on a pass to Emmanuel Ogbuehi, who was left open when the defender covering him fell down. McLane, a redshirt freshman who won the job during the spring practices, was leading the offense for long stretches without starting running back Donald Russell and starting wide receivers Danny Williams and Jordan Giles. Offensive coordinator John Bond said they didn’t play as many snaps because they wanted to look at some other players.
Bond said McLane’s struggles haven’t changed the depth chart. Kelton Hill is the backup and Ronnie Bell, who scored one of the two touchdowns, is third. Bond said McLane has made just two bad decisions in the past three days and that some of his turnovers were the result of tipped passes or other bits of bad luck.
The offense, playing with four new starters on the line, struggled in most phases from lining up correctly to breaking the huddle with the correct number of players, and were called for numerous penalties.
“We didn’t play nearly as hard as we have to play, and that’s at every position,” Bond said. “We’ve got to play a whole lot better and we will.”
Even after the long pass to Ogbuehi that put the ball at the 4-yard line the offense failed to capitalize. McLane was sacked on third down by Kelly, who said he had three sacks and three hurries.
“The key was just the pass rush, mainly,” Kelly said. “I saw the offense sitting back in the shotgun and the defense was able to key in with the pass rush. That’s something we’ve been working hard on.”
Matt Ehasz followed the sack of McLane with a 26-yard field goal, snapping a stretch in which the Panthers missed a point-after wide, had a field goal blocked, missed another point-after that hit the upright of the goal post, and had another point-after blocked and returned for two points.
Again, Curry said it was hard to tell if the special teams were playing poorly or the defense played well.
“There was some things that we needed to do better that we did better today, now we need to do them in the games,” Curry said.
Georgia State and representatives from the NCAA met via teleconference on Monday to discuss the details of the school’s FBS application as the school begins year one of the two-year transition. Georgia State resigned from the Colonial Athletic Association, which plays football on the FCS level, in April to join the Sun Belt Conference, which plays football on the FBS level.
Among the topics discussed, the school must meet a two-year rolling average of using 90 percent of the 85 scholarships (76.5) allowed on the FBS level.
The university currently uses 64 football scholarships and plans to use a minimum of 68, either by awarding four more full scholarships or by a combination of partial scholarships, which can’t be done once GSU becomes a full-fledged FBS member but it is still allowed to do now because it’s in transition.
Georgia State will award 85 scholarships for the 2013-14 year to meet the rolling average of 76.5 scholarships awarded.