KEARNEY – University of Nebraska at Kearney football returns most of its roster from last season’s 5-6 team. The depth at each position allowed the Lopers to play four 15-minute quarters of live 11-on-11 play in their spring game Saturday.
The Lopers split into two teams – Blue and Gold – by using a player draft to fill out each roster. The two teams combined for 95 offensive plays, 531 yards and five touchdowns.
Turnovers hampered the offensive production in the final spring workout, but third-year coach Josh Lynn raved about the players’ efforts in the scrimmage and throughout the spring.
“This is the best spring I’ve been associated with as a football coach,” Lynn said. “There wasn’t a lot of selfishness. Everyone got out here and got better. It was just a great spring for improvement.”
Here are four takeaways from the spring game:
Turnovers highlight scrimmage
The two offenses committed a combined seven turnovers in the scrimmage. Six turnovers came in the first half and mostly were due to poor decisions.
Starting quarterback Alex McGinnis was responsible for three turnovers. The fifth-year senior threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once.
McGinnis missed two throws downfield before tossing an interception on the Gold team’s first offensive series. McGinnis faced pressure from the defense and threw off his back foot into double coverage.
On the next offensive series, McGinnis scrambled out of the pocket. Once he realized he wasn’t going to turn the collapsed play into a positive gain, he tried to throw the ball out of bounds. Instead, he left it short and the ball landed in defensive back Jaren Whitehead’s hands.
McGinnis’ fumbled occurred in the second quarter when he rolled out of the pocket and just dropped the ball on accident.
Besides the three turnovers, McGinnis went 7-for-15 passing for 111 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 43 yards on 11 carries.
“We just need to make those smart quarterback decisions (and) throw the ball away when you need to throw the ball away,” Lynn said.
Davis displayed improvement
Redshirt freshman TJ Davis has made notable strides this spring. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound dual-threat QB had command of the offense and made smart decisions, minus a fumble on an option play early in the scrimmage.
Davis, who’s third on the depth chart, was the Lopers’ top performing quarterback Saturday. He completed 4-of-6 pass attempts for 57 yards and one touchdown, while rushing 14 times for 88 yards and one score
He hurried out of the pocket and threw slightly across his body to a wide-open Michael Koch for a 34-yard TD pass. His quickness also was on display, as he rushed for a 33-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“He had as good of a spring as anyone we had,” Lynn said. “He’s electric. If we gave a most improved offensively, he definitely won the award. He did a great job of just getting better and better.”
Meyer capitalizes on opportunity
Redshirt sophomore Garrett Meyer capitalized on his opportunities with only three active running backs Saturday. Meyer played for both teams and finished with 74 all-purpose yards.
He was fifth on the running back depth chart and played sparingly last season. He showed his potential in the scrimmage, rushing for 33 yards on seven carries while hauling in two passes for 42 yards and one touchdown.
His touchdown reception came in the first quarter. After pulling in a 37-yard reception, Meyer caught a 5-yard pass out of the backfield for the scrimmage’s first touchdown.
Starter Darrius Webb and backup Luke Quinn were inactive, allowing Meyer, David Goodwin and Dayton Sealey to receive all the touches out of the backfield.
“First of all, it sucks for the guys that are out. We miss them,” Meyer said. “I got a lot of reps. It gets us all better. I’ll take all the reps I can get.”
Hill will play critical role again
Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Rakid Hill finished fourth in tackles for the Lopers last year. It was his first full season healthy, and he provided a major impact on an experienced defensive unit.
Hill hopes to take the next step in his development this fall. He showed positive signs throughout the scrimmage, recording six tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Hill will be one of the four team captains for the Lopers in the fall. Senior safety Dallas Vaughn, senior running back Dayton Sealey and junior right tackle Corey Hoelck also are captains. McGinnis, sophomore safety Blake Bubak and senior kicker/punter Kendall Raschein are alternate captains.
“I feel confident in where I’m at, and I’m ready to go into my senior year and win big for Kearney,” Hill said.
The Lopers have to replace four starters on last year’s defense, which ranked fifth in the MIAA in points allowed per game. Defensive end Tye Spies, outside linebacker Cliffond Taylor and cornerbacks Famous McKinnon and Malik Webb graduated from last year’s starting unit.
“This defense is capable of a lot,” Hill said. “We aren’t worried about loss. We are just reloading. Yeah those were big-time players that you just named, but we have some more that are ready to step into that light.”
The Lopers will begin fall camp in August. Their first game is at Missouri Southern on Sept. 5.