MOREHEAD – The Morehead State University football program wrapped up its month-long spring practices Sunday with the annual Blue-White game at Jayne Stadium. In a spirited two-hour contest, the Eagle offense overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to rally and defeat the defensive unit, 61-42.
The contest featured a unique scoring system that awarded points for several situations, including big plays, touchdowns and multiple first downs on offense, and sacks, interceptions, tackles for loss and stopping drives on defense.
“I really liked our effort and the way our offense played in the second half,” said MSU Head Coach Matt Ballard. “Our defense was so physical and aggressive and created some turnovers, but that’s why we have the scoring system we do. It awards points for making plays and showing great effort and not just scoring touchdowns.”
The Eagle defense, under the direction of coordinator John Gilliam, a Prestonsburg High School graduate, surged to a 35-21 halftime advantage thanks to three interceptions and several pass breakups and drive-killing stops. Sophomore defenders Michael Jackson and Chris Benton and redshirt sophomore Nick McCune all came up with picks in the first half.
The offense opened the second half with a 95-yard scoring drive, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Zach Lewis to senior wide receiver Donte Sawyer, one of two scoring tosses caught by Sawyer on the day.
Lewis, MSU’s record-setting signal-caller, passed for 250 yards on 20 completions. Sawyer grabbed a team-best five passes for more than 50 yards.
“Football is a game of adversity,” Ballard said. “We talked to our offense at halftime when they were down by 14. We told them you have to be sound, sharp and just make plays. They came out and took the first drive and moved 95 yards and set the tone for the second half.”
The Eagle offense also received a pair of touchdowns from senior wideout Kevin Thomas and redshirt freshman Justin Cornwall. Thomas caught a 49-yard score from redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Mann and also threw a touchdown to junior wideout Jason Rider. Cornwall snagged a 24-yard scoring toss from redshirt sophomore quarterback Boone Goldsmith and also rushed for a 25-yard touchdown. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Shade Whitfield caught a scoring pass as well.
“Every live situation this spring, we have gotten at least two first downs on a drive,” Ballard noted. “That’s exactly what you saw after halftime and we had a completely different ball game.”
Senior kicker Rainer Duzan booted a pair of field goals, one from 21 yards and the other from 25 yards out.
Senior running back Greg Lewis and sophomore halfback Rob Hardin each piled up more than 40 yards. Senior Blake Stanley ripped off a 46-yard run, and redshirt sophomore Brandon Bornhauser recorded the longest run, a 50-yard tote to set up one of Sawyer’s touchdowns.
“People on both sides of the ball made big plays,” Ballard said. “Our defense is young and we had some injuries today we have to deal with, but I am excited as we head into fall. This was a valuable experience today, and I think our team has done a nice job of learning and growing this spring.”
MSU went through 14 practice sessions in the month, beginning April 3 and wrapping with Sunday’s game.
The Eagles’ 11-game 2012 schedule features six home contests. The season opener is set for Thursday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. ET when Southern Virginia visits. Family weekend is Sept. 15 when the Eagles entertain St. Francis (Pa.) at 1 p.m., and Homecoming is set for Oct. 27 when Pioneer Football League rival Campbell provides the opposition at 1 p.m.