The Slippery Rock football team saw it’s first live game action since December Friday evening, playing to a 34-34 tie in the annual Green and White Spring game.
The game was played with non-traditional 30-minute halves, a running clock and no kicks or punts. The defense, in green, got 17 points at the start of each half and the offense, in white, started every drive from the 20-yard line.
Both sides of the ball had some success, with the defense causing four turnovers and the offense scoring four touchdowns.
With the graduation of 2015 starting quarterback Dante Nania, one of the most interesting things to watch for at the spring game was the battle for the starting quarterback role between transfer Don King III and senior Zack Newsock.
King transferred from Sam Houston State University, where he compiled 315 career passing yards and 155 career rushing yards as a backup quarterback. Newsock started seven games for The Rock in 2014, throwing for 1,791 yards and 15 touchdowns.
SRU head coach Shawn Lutz said that he thought both guys played well on Friday and that they’re making it a tough decision on who he’ll start.
“From our perspective, I kind of wish we could name a starter coming out of the spring,” Lutz said. “Zack Newsock is a veteran, he’s been in the system and Don King did some really nice things. It’s going to be a quarterback battle competition leading into camp. Until we feel like we have a definite guy we’re going to see what happens.”
In the spring game, King was 10-15 for 79 yards, one touchdown and one interception and Newsock was 12-18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Other interesting areas of the team to watch were the offensive line, which graduated four starters from 2015, and the linebackers, who graduated two starters from 2015.
Leading the offensive line next year will be returning All-Region senior Joe LoShiavo and returning for the linebackers will be All-Region senior Bob Vernick. Vernick finished the game with four tackles, one for a loss.
Lutz thought that Vernick had an especially good spring game and that some of the other offensive linemen and linebackers just need more experience and time to develop.
“Our offensive line is young, will be anytime you graduate four of your starting five guys,” Lutz said. “I thought they got better and better. We’re just going to get more experience along that offensive line and keep getting better from there. From a linebacker standpoint, we’ve got some guys who just need to keep getting experience as well.”
Other strong performers Friday were junior running back Isiah Neely and senior running back Dominic Dingle. Both guys figure to player behind last year’s starter, Shamar Greene who did not participate in the spring game. Nelly had 85 yards on 15 carries and Dingle had 130 yards on 24 carries. Junior defensive end Marcus Martin had six tackles, four for a loss including two and a half sacks and sophomore defensive backs Kyle Hall and Steve Hill both had an interception.
This marks the end of spring practices for The Rock as they continue to work towards a third straight conference title next season. The season starts September 3 when SRU takes on the University of New Haven at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium at 1 p.m.