Leading by three with two minutes left to play in Saturday’s Cherry and White game at Chodoff Field, the offensive players on the White team were not satisfied.
Knowing that the loser faced a grueling conditioning drill on Monday, senior quarterback P.J. Walker wanted to get one more series on offense to ensure the win.
Sophomore running back Jager Gardner added a 25 yard touchdown catch to give the white squad breathing room on the way to a 35-25 win to close out the spring football season.
“I thought P.J. executed the two-minute really well and they went right down the field at the end and scored … I thought overall for a spring game it was pretty well executed,” coach Matt Rhule said.
Walker threw four touchdowns in the game including two to redshirt-junior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood, one of which went for 70 yards.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Frank Nutile, who threw a touchdown pass, and redshirt-freshman quarterback Logan Marchi also saw time at quarterback with the second and third team offenses.
The offense spread the ball around in the passing game. In addition to Gardner and Kirkwood, sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead, redshirt-junior receiver Marshall Ellick, junior wideout Adonis Jennings and redshirt-sophomore receiver Ventell Bryant were among those with receptions.
With 2015’s leading receiver Robby Anderson graduating, as well as John Christopher and Brandon Shippen, different receivers are stepping to the forefront.
“It’s always tough going up against our receivers,” said redshirt-senior defensive back Nate Hairston, who won the team’s most improved defensive player award for the spring. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of good guys, but it was fun to get out there and compete against them in a game atmosphere.”
Not all aspects of the game went smoothly. Kirkwood dropped a potential touchdown on a slant route and a poor exchange on a handoff led to a Gardner fumble.
“My thing is the way you get better if you keep eliminating defects and keep fixing problems,” Rhule said. “I think today we probably had too many penalties. We had too many problems with the receivers getting lined up. Defensively we didn’t get the pass rush I was hoping we would get. We dropped too many balls. We had a chance to maybe extend some more drives. Those would be things that I’d say we need to improve on.”
The Owls won 10 games in 2015 for the second time in school history. The team is using last year’s loss in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl as motivation to have higher expectations.
“Now that we know that we can go that far and achieve better things, we’re pushing ourselves a lot harder and for nothing but the best,” Gardner said. So that’s how we’re taking care of that.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.