Up-tempo offense leads Blue over Gold in Ballad Health Spring Game

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The ETSU faithful got their first look at the Tre Lamb-led Buccaneers in Friday night’s Ballad Health Blue & Gold Spring Game.

The 15th and final spring practice for the Bucs under the new head coach was punctuated by a 28-3 scrimmage victory for the Blue Team. The squad’s top two quarterbacks helped the winning side score early and often – accounting for 239 of the group’s 412 yards.

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Gardner-Webb transfer Jaylen King was 10-of-14 for 86 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 22 more yards on the ground.

“He moves around here, he’s taller than the offensive line – he makes off-schedule plays,” Lamb said afterwards. “You don’t have to make the perfect play call on 3rd & 3 and all the sudden you’ve got a first down.”

Graduate transfer Cole Doyle hit 7-of-10 passes for 131 yards and a pair of scores.

“That was great to see,” Lamb said. “I think both of those guys had a nice day.”

Both of King’s touchdowns on the night were to former Gardner-Webb teammates. On the opening drive, he hit tight end Jonathan Burns on a short route. In the second quarter, it was AJ Johnson that hauled in a quick crosser for a score.

“It was a great start,” King said. “We started the day with a touchdown – got the groove going, got the scrimmage going.”

“Me and him, we have that connection,” Johnson explained. “When you get it early on, you know you’re going to have it later on. So, that was great to see that – to come out here and put it on them first.”

“You get that first first down and you start going fast,” Lamb said. “You start playing point guard back there. (King) knows where (Johnson)’s going to be. He knows when it’s going to be a slant, he knows when it’s going to be a go. They’re just on the same page right now.”

Johnson finished the day with 4 catches for 33 yards and the score, while former G-W Bulldog, Justin Franklin, led all receivers with 3 catches for 72 yards and a long touchdown from Doyle to complete the scoring.

However, it wasn’t all offense inside William B. Greene Jr. Stadium. Blue defensive back Cam Sims tipped and intercepted a pass on Gold’s first drive.

“Man, it was a great play call,” he said. “I just feel like I made the best of the opportunity – but I just got to thank God for that one.”

Jimmy Bowdry returned the favor, picking off a Doyle pass deep downfield to steady the ship.

Blue would ultimately seal the deal with a forced fumble by Tyreek Nark, which was scooped up by Teddy Wilson.

“Very impressed with our defense getting three turnovers,” Lamb said. “That’s always good – anytime you get three in a game you’ve got a great shot to win it.”

Both players and head coach believe the team is in a good position heading into the summer. But, Lamb explained that the work isn’t done – that includes the possibility of expanding the roster.

“I’d like to potentially add another (running) back,” he said. “We didn’t turn it over at that position, but we’re potentially looking at that in the portal. I’d like to get another pass rusher – maybe another interior defensive lineman, just to give us some more depth.”

The 2024 ETSU football season will begin on August 31 with a trip to Boone, North Carolina to face Appalachian State. The next time the Bucs will be in front of a crowd at home – the home opener against UVA Wise on Saturday, September 7.

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