In the middle of two colder spring stretches, SRU football got lucky and was able to host their annual Green and White Spring Game in 60-degree weather. The game featured the arrival of multiple new players and saw a fairly large number of fans come to watch exhibition.
“It was a great, great night with nice weather, and we had some football alums back and some incoming freshman that will be joining us in the fall,” coach Shawn Lutz said. “We had a fun game, and there was a lot of people and a lot of energy, so I was pleased with that.”
The game featured The Rock offense wearing white matching up against The Rock defense in green. The two squads battled for just a little under two hours. The Rock defense only fielded 21 players overall due to injuries, which saw almost as many defensive players on the sideline as there were in full uniform.
“We had a lot of guys banged up on the defensive side of the ball that didn’t play in the spring game, we only fielded 21 guys on that side, which isn’t even two deep,” Lutz said. “All those guys will be back for the fall though.”
The game started out with the depleted defense getting the best of the offense in the first quarter of play. The scoring in the game was traditional points for the offense and the defense scored five points for turnovers and three-and-outs, and three points for any drive that resulted in a stop. They held The Rock offense scoreless in the first quarter and were able to take an 8-0 lead into the second quarter of play.
Noah Grover started the game at quarterback for the white team and in the spring game his connection with his new receivers was shown. After throwing to three National Football League (NFL) caliber receivers last season, things are a little different for Grover now.
Grover will be throwing to an almost entirely new receiver core and counting on the new guys. In the spring game, Grover made it clear that he’s comfortable enough to go out there and sling it.
The second quarter saw The Rock offense get on the board three separate times and only get stopped once. The scores came from a DJ Opsatnik field goal, a three-yard scamper from Izzy Reed and a one yard run from Xander McClure. The scores put the white team up 17-13 at the half.
This season, Max Maciejewski and Kyle Sheets are the guys that Lutz thinks are going to have to take some big steps. They’ll be the returners who Grover has already established a bond with on the field, and for Lutz he thinks they’ll be the guys that they’ll look to a lot this fall.
“We’re getting a little bit of continuity, but we’re still not where we need to be at the receiver position,” Lutz said. “It looks like the guys that are settled in are Max Maciejewski, Jacob Odom, Kyle Sheets, Cohen Russell and those type of guys.
“Things are looking a little bit better but we still have some steps to take.”
It was the first game Kyle Sheets had played in college without having the likes of Jermaine Wynn Jr., Cinque Sweeting and Henry Litwin with him on the field. In the spring game, Sheets made it apparent that he’s working to be the guy.
“He’s probably our oldest and most proven receiver, and he’s got to go from a guy that basically went a little bit under the radar to a go-to guy,” Lutz said. “He has that ability and I really think him, and Max have got to be the guys.”
Lutz doesn’t hide the fact that there will have to be a drop off of some sort when it comes to losing the top three targets on offense, but he’s also really excited for the opportunities that they may get here in the next few weeks.
“There’s got to be a drop off to losing Litwin, Sweeting and Wynn Jr. because I don’t think we’ll ever have that here again, but it’s going to be a huge transition for the quarterback,” Lutz said. “As well as Henry and Cinque did at their pro days, I don’t know if they’ll get drafted but I feel like they’re good enough to at least get a free agent opportunity, and they’ve just got to give them a chance.”
The third quarter of the spring game was neck and neck. The defense was able to earn five more points to their tally, but at just a little over halfway through the third period of play, Opsatnik nailed another field goal to help the white keep a 20-18 advantage.
In the fourth quarter, the green team earned other 10 points and put all the pressure on the white to decide whether or not the game would end with a green victory. In the last few minutes, the white completed a drive, in which Devin Sims got them two points closer to the defense. An Andrew Miller two-point conversion tied the game up.
To end the game, the pressure was put on Opsatnik to make a field goal to break the tie, but his attempt went off the uprights and was no good. Just like that, the Green and White Game ended in a 28-28 tie.
“We had a fun game, and it was awesome to see some of the young guys step up,” coach Shawn Lutz said.
The next time The Rock will take the field will be in the fall when they welcome Wayne State University. To Lutz, there are still a lot of holes to fill and a lot of things to figure out, but this spring served as a good measuring stick for where they want to be.
“I loved the way our guys went out there and competed, and now we go out there and look at our immediate needs and we can be honest with our guys on where they stand,” Lutz said. “Now we get on to recruiting in the summer.”