Defense rules the day at first GSU Spring Game under Jackson

GRAMBLING — The final score showed the Black team edged the Gold Team 7-6 at Grambling State University’s first spring football game under the auspices of new head coach Hue Jackson.

But despite a lack of offensive output, Jackson still felt like it was a winning effort by his Tigers.

“That was our 15th practice,” Jackson said. “”It was called a spring game, but it was a practice. There were a lot of things in the process I wanted the team to understand — how we take the field before a game, how we go back in at halftime, the adjustments, the things we do. We played a lot of different players. Nothing’s been set in stone. The most important thing to me is we talked out of here understanding the process, we didn’t have anyone get seriously injured, and that we got a chance to move the ball around, communicate with each other and those kinds of things. That’s what spring is for.

“Now we have a lot of work to do. We all know that. But I’m excited about where we are. There’s some huge decisions I have to make with the coaching staff as we move forward, but I think we’re right on track — where I thought we’d be at this point in time.”

The Tigers’ defense spent the game pressuring all four quarterbacks who played, delivering hard hits and forcing plenty of punts along with multiple turnovers.

But the offense did manage to move the ball at time.s Senior Elijah Walker got the opening reps at quarterback and drove the offense from its own 40-yard line following the kickoff return down to the opponents’ 31 before the defense tightened.

Senior kicker Garrett Urban came in to try a 48-yard field goal, but the attempt fell inches short of reaching the crossbar.

Sophomore Noah Bodden got the second series at quarterback, followed by freshman transfer Kajiya Hollowayne from UCLA and then junior Quaterius Hawkins, a transfer from Jones College in Mississippi.

None of that quartet managed to find any kind of  rhythm in a fast-moving first half played with a running clock with 12-minute quarters, with the game tied at 0-0 as the team headed into the locker room at intermission.

“I stayed away from the offense today,” Jackson said. “I wanted to stay back and let (offensive coordinator John Simon) and his staff have it. In all these situations, I’m not just evaluating players, I’m evaluating coaches and how we go about doing things. We’ll make the adjustments we need to make, but I was proud of the things our defense did, I was proud of some of the things our offense did, and I was proud of our special teams. But that’s being a head coach. I wanted to score 40 points and we didn’t do it. That’s OK.” 

When asked if one or two quarterbacks stood out, Jackson steered clear of the question.

“One day isn’t going to determine anything for me,” Jackson said. “This is a body of work over 15 practices. We’ll go back and evaluate the tape and make the right decision. 

“But I’m going to always be doing everything and anything I need to do to improve that position. That’s just what it’s all about. I think we all know football teams go as quarterbacks go. So that’s what I do, that’s what I’m comfortable doing and we’ll make the right decision.”

Walker began a drive with 1:55 left in the third quarter at his own 47-yard line. Junior running back Keilon Elder rushed for 26 yards on that drive while Walker hit sophomore receiver Troy Truitt for a 10-yard game.

But on a first-and-10 at the opponent 11-yard line, junior defensive back Devin Bush picked off a Walker pass in the back of the end zone to end that drive.

The first score of the game was turned in by the defense as sophomore DB Tyron Hall picked off a Hollowayne pass and returned it 30 yards down the sideline to paydirt.

Sophomore kicker Marquise McKnight’s extra point kick put the Black team up 7-0 with 4:21 remaining.

The Gold offense scored its touchdown with 43.1 seconds remaining as Bodden hit senior receiver Lynden Rash on a crossing route over the middle. Rash made the grab, pivoted left and raced the final 20 yards to the end zone to complete the 

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