SU football players enjoy finale for spring practice

The White squad beat the Blue squad Saturday in the Syracuse football Spring game, 13-7, in part to a one-yard touchdown run by tailback Antwon Bailey.

Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone decided to bring a change to this year’s spring game, which is normally just a scripted, glorified scrimmage. Instead, Marrone split his coaching staff and team into two and spent his time observing the two squads from about 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Photo: Stephen Hughes
Prince Tyson-Gulley, 23, signs an autograph for a fan following Saturdays scrimmage at the Carrier Dome.

With starters mixed in with reserves on both squads, the White team beat the Blue squad. Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for 227 yards and tailback Antwon Bailey ran for 118 yards and one touchdown to lead the team.

While the game was played at full speed, except for special teams, it was a fun way to cap off the spring season Nassib said.

“We went out there, went after each other, and it was fun. I think it was my most fun spring game since I’ve been here,” he said.

Bailey scored the lone offensive touchdown of the game on a one-yard dive late in the third quarter. Beyond that however, both offensive sputtered and thanks to some big plays by both defenses, neither team was able to capitalize on big plays.

Not playing with all of his usual starters was a change of pace but that’s something the team needs to be able to work with according to Nassib.

“It was a little bit different but that’s how this game is. You never know with injuries or substitutions, but we mesh well together,” he said.

The White squad, led by defensive coordinator Scott Shafer, Nassib and Bailey, out-played the Blue team for much of the game but was unable to find the end zone. Most of that was due to the strong play by the Syracuse defensive backs as well as some hard hitting by the linebackers.

Junior safety Philip Thomas played for both defenses due to a lack of defensive backs. Thomas has morphed into a leader on the defense this spring and all that playing time gave him the opportunity to work on getting everyone pumped and ready to go, Thomas said.

“I had to get everybody going, a lot of energy. I like to push everybody and they feel my energy so that’s a good thing. I still could go right now, I’m not tired at all. All together it was a nice game, everybody did well,” Thomas said.

The game started with a sort of excitement Syracuse fans haven’t seen much of lately. On the second play from scrimmage, Nassib threw a low screen pass to wide out Alec Lemon. Cornerback Kevyn Scott came flying in though and scooped the pass right from Lemon’s hands and sprinted 33 yards for the touchdown.

After that the game descended into a series of failed drives, three and outs and some poor kicking displays.

Nassib had several big passes that bailed the team out on third down conversions, including a 53-yard bomb to freshman Jeremiah Kobena to set up the White team’s first field goal with less than a minute left in the first half.

Nassib also relied heavily on senior tight end Nick Provo to bail him out when he was under pressure. Provo had a game-high five catches for 50 yards.

The failure to convert on offense was a cause for worry by the Syracuse coaches but offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said that was just part of the process.

“That’s something we have to get out of. It’s about touchdowns, not field goals and that’s a frustrating thing. If we can get those 20-yard gains, that’s the start and getting in the end zone is the next thing. That’s why, thank goodness, this is spring ball.”

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