BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb wrapped up its second, and final, preseason scrimmage Saturday morning in Ernest W. Spangler Stadium.
With the start of classes looming and kickoff at Elon only 14 days away, the Runnin' Bulldogs went through their full-speed, full-contact paces on the turf. The scrimmage was played with ACC/Big South officials on hand.
GWU ran through 90+ plays as planned, with the offense moving the football well for much of the day – and the defensive side buckling down late in the action with some key stops in the red zone.
Quarterback Tyrell Maxwell (6-2, 220, Jr.) continued a red-hot stretch throwing the football, connecting accurately over the top and in traffic on Saturday. It is a trend that began to emerge in the early days of camp, with an offseason spent on footwork and mechanics paying obvious dividends.
Maxwell used his legs to move the chains several times – and hit Ralph Jolly (6-2, 194, RSo.) on a pair of completions in traffic for first downs. Jolly, who is back at 100 percent after missing most of the 2015 season with an injury, made a 15-yard catch on the home sideline early in the scrimmage, and skied for a leaping, 20-yard catch later in the morning.
Maxwell connected with speedster Kyle Horton (5-11, 175, So.) on a 72-yard touchdown play early, going over the top on the deep pass and allowing Horton to use his 4.36-second speed to catch up. Maxwell darted into the end zone himself during goal line drills, as the GWU offense was very efficient in punching the football into the end zone during that period.
Elijah Perry (5-8, 175, So.) provided a highlight run – despite the short yardage required to score – zipping outside and using his quickness and 4.34-second speed in the 40 to outrun several angles for a touchdown.
The coaching staff turned the tables moments later, with the offense working out of the shadows of its own goal post in another situational period. Maxwell and Horton hooked up again, this time on a deep ball that Horton caught at the opposite 40-yard line and outran the defense to paydirt to cap a 95-yard scoring strike.
After more special teams work, GWU went into its Red Zone period, and each defensive group was able to stem the tide and hold the offense out of the end zone. Kicker Paul Schumacher was accurate in finishing those drives, connecting on each of his field goal chances on the morning.
* The move of Quinton Patterson (6-1, 253, RJr.) to defensive end earlier in the week is already showing signs of benefit for the 'Dogs up front. The NC State transfer and former Crest (N.C.) High star has the quickness and speed (4.65 in the 40) to get to the quarterback, and is quickly figuring out how to best use his strength in his new area. Patterson made several tackles behind the line Saturday, and forced a fumble in the end zone that he recovered for a safety just before the midway point. GWU also moved lineman Russell Hughes (6-3, 309, Sr.) back to nose guard. The Gaffney, S.C., native spent much of the 2015 season with the offensive line.
* Running back Khalil Lewis (5-10, 215, RSo.) continues to be a workhorse in the backfield for Gardner-Webb, as he and Perry have combined for an effective 1-2 punch in the running game. Perry, who is the team's fastest – and likely quickest – man, gives GWU a great change of pace. The powerful Lewis, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds, has plenty of speed himself.
* Gardner-Webb continues to develop good depth in the secondary, with young corners Josh Carter (5-11, 186, So.) and Jaylan Foster (6-0, 190, Fr.) pushing up the depth chart with strong early play. Foster, who starred at nearby Byrnes (S.C.) High, has worked with the first team at times this week and has been a regular in nickel and dime packages. Carter, a former walk-on with great speed, has earned a scholarship after proving himself on special teams last season. The Fork Union (Va.) Military product has also earned work with the first team defense.
* The veteran duo of Aaron Cook (6-1, 235, Sr.) and Chad Geter (6-2, 253, R-Sr.) provide a great deal of resistance on the perimeter run game at outside linebacker. The bookend running mates each have exceptional instincts and experience, as well as the physical strength to stop plays cold.
* The Gardner-Webb staff will evaluate film with position groups over the next two days and begin to whittle down the rotation as a two-deep emerges heading into the coming week. GWU will return to the practice fields on Monday and Tuesday morning, before rolling into a normal afternoon routine when classes begin in Boiling Springs on Wednesday (August 24).