KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney football coach Josh Lynn evaluated the Lopers’ performance in the passing game in the first preseason scrimmage as a "F-minus" on Saturday at Foster Field.
The Loper quarterbacks threw five interceptions in the two-hour scrimmage. Starting redshirt senior quarterback Alex McGinnis and backup redshirt freshman TJ Davis each threw two interceptions while freshman Casen Cavalier accounted for one.
Improving the passing game has been a priority for the Lopers throughout the first week of practice, after they ranked second-last in the MIAA in passing yards per game last season.
"We just have to get better at throwing the ball," Lynn said. "As a whole, yes the defense is a little bit more ahead in all phases. We have to do a better job at throwing the ball. The emphasis was throwing the ball today. We threw the ball more than we ever have."
Lynn said the quarterbacks have to make smarter reads and throw the ball out of bounds instead of forcing passes.
As the offense struggled, the defensive secondary shined. The biggest question mark on the defense entering this season is the acclimation of junior college cornerback transfers Terrell Williams and David Tolentino. Both were brought in to likely start at the two cornerback spots, but Lynn knew it would take time for them to understand and feel comfortable in the scheme.
On Saturday, both displayed why the Lopers have confidence in the potential they each present.
Tolentino intercepted Davis twice in the scrimmage. The first interception came in the end zone when Tolentino went up to snare the ball out of the air while the second occurred on a pass attempt to receiver Cody Summers. He also recorded a pass deflection.
Williams also tallied an interception. His came late in the scrimmage when McGinnis was under pressure and tossed a ball into the end zone instead of just throwing it out of bounds. Williams was in the right position and caught the errant pass.
"A lot of new faces," said Lynn on the secondary. "That was some of the worries coming into camp. So it’s great to see those guys perform today."
For the second consecutive year, the Lopers have a two-person competition for the starting place-kicker position. Redshirt junior Treygan Gowen, who was in the mix last season, and sophomore Junior Gonzalez, who transferred in the summer, are vying for the spot.
Both kickers showed an ability to hit 35-yard field goals to 47-yard attempts. Gonzalez at times had better accuracy and kicking power from longer distances, but Gowen also made most of his attempts that were at least 40 yards.
Neither of the kickers separated themselves in the position battle, but Lynn said Gowen impressed him Saturday.
"It’s kind of like last year," Lynn said. "Treygan Gowen is right there in the mix. If we went with the stats today, Treygan probably had the better day. Junior kicked the ball as well. We will make that decision as we move along."