BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb wrapped up its first spring practice season under new head coach Carroll McCray Saturday with a 60-play Spring Game in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium.
A crowd of more than 500 was on hand for Saturday’s festivities.
The offense showed improvement from the previous week’s outing, breaking loose for several big plays in the passing game. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were down to one quarterback for the scrimmage, but returning starter Lucas Beatty was that man under center. The Charlotte, N.C., standout went to the air more frequently and with more success – completing 22-of-32 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown.
Beatty hooked up with DeMarcus white on a 47-yard gain midway through the action, and capped off that drive with a six-yard scoring strike to Kenny Cook. Beatty found Richard Jules on a 56-yarder earlier in the day, and had 10 completions of at least 10 yards.
Cook finished with seven catches for 72 yards to pace the receiving corps. White added four catches for 61 yards, Jules had two catches for 61 yards and the tight end corps was well represented by returning All-Big South performer Seth Cranfill (3 catches, 28 yards) and newcomer Mike Estes (2 catches, 27 yards).
Defensively, the Runnin’ Bulldogs clamped down on the run again, allowing just three runs longer than six yards – with the longest a 10-yard scamper by Beatty on an option play.
The front seven contributed three sacks and seven tackles for loss in the scrimmage. Linebacker Azziz Higgins got into the backfield for a tackle in the end zone and a safety midway through the event and end Shaquille Riddick had a pair of pressures in addition to a sack. Linebacker Chad Geter had a long interception return – one of three picks on the day for the Runnin’ Bulldogs.
Corner Ivan Toomer capped an outstanding spring with a pair of pass break ups and an interception on a nice break. Brandon Swayze added the third pick, snuffing out a red zone chance with his grab in the end zone.
Special teams situations were done without a rush, but new kicker Jordan Day was very accurate once again. The former soccer student-athlete connected on 7-of-9 attempts, with each of his makes from 40-43 yards. Day’s last miss came from 52 yards.
Gardner-Webb opens the 2013 season at home on Saturday, August 31, at 6:00 against Furman – the Paladins first visit to Spangler Stadium since 2004.