Ava Maria University threatened to make a game of it with Georgetown College late in the first half of Saturday’s Mid-South Conference opening at Toyota Stadium, despite the final score.
The Tigers were quickly put out of reach by D.J. White, a returning All-American, and Jake Johnson, a homegrown prospect likely of reaching that national distinction this fall.
Moments after White was deceived on a fake field goal attempt – one of four key red-zone stops by the GC defense – Johnson scored in a 73-yard touchdown reception for a 28-7 halftime lead and a 42-10 victory.
Johnson, a fifth-year senior from Pulaski County, said, “That’s just what we needed.” “We knew we had a good chance of beating this team. We didn’t want them to stay for too long.”
For the Tigers, Darius Barbour scored two touchdowns on one reception and one run. In his first start at quarterback, Brandon Burgess also fired a touchdown pass to Aaron Maggard for the hat trick.
Burgess completed 18 of 27 passes for a total of 282 yards. In the second half, his only interception was a tipped ball.
“I felt the quarterback position was quite stable. He still needs to improve, but I think he’ll be an excellent player,” Georgetown coach Bill Cronin said. “I believe he has a good view of the field. I believe he will improve as time goes by. He’s a decent, clever child who works hard. It will be fascinating to see his progress.”
White was responsible for two of Georgetown’s six sacks. Marcus Omosule, Jonny Bothen, Chad Holleran, and William Marshall were among others who joined him in that group.
“I enjoy wreaking chaos and dominating situations. Being in the quarterback’s face all the time and having the offensive coordinator concerned about No. 3,” White explained. “That’s a huge deal. It allows other men to perform their jobs and results in a lot more sacks, as you saw today.”
Ave Maria’s five trips inside the 10-yard line resulted in only two touchdowns: a 5-yard touchdown throws from Will Tate to Daniel Burke with 8:43 left in the second quarter and a 35-yard field goal by Brendan Clark with 11:20 left in the third.
After the Gyrenes had first-and-goal at the 4 in the second series, White dropped Tate for a big defeat.
“DJ is a powerhouse in there,” Cronin said, “but he has a couple of players around him that, if they focus on him, Marcus (Omosule) and Rock (Sander Roksvag) will make a difference.” “As a result, it will be difficult to double-team him and take him out.”
On its way to a 21-0 advantage, Georgetown dominated in every facet of the game.
Barbour returned a punt all the way to the Ave Maria 20 yard line, where he scored on his own 9-yard grab. With some powerful runs between the tackles, Nick Conley and Isaiah Cobb set the tone.
Ave Maria’s second series was followed up by Bothen’s sack, giving the Tigers a great starting field position at the Gyrenes’ 37. Cobb’s big gain on a draw play was hampered by a holding call at the end, but Aaron Maggard’s 16-yard grab made it 14-0 with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
“Our defense was fairly dominating early on, so that (fast start) was a testament to them,” Cronin said. “I think they’ll be fairly good as a couple of players grow up, even though they gave up a little bit (of yardage).” We need to stick together a little tighter and keep playing hard.
Burgess’ chain-moving scamper and Rob Sheffield’s interception gave the Tigers another boost in momentum to close the period.
After the switch of ends, Burgess connected with three separate receivers, and Cobb capped the scoring match with a 1-yard plunge.
“Today he looked fantastic. I thought this last week in practice was the best he’d ever looked, and it showed on Saturday,” Johnson said of Burgess, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior from Tennessee who replaces Hunter Krause and Zach Dampier, who both graduated.
“Every single series, he came out and destroyed the defense.” It appeared like way, and it showed on the scoreboard, with 42 points. This year, we have weapons all over the field, and it’s a lot of joy to watch.”
Prior to his TD hookup with Burke to put AMU on the board, Tate found Joshua Jenkins deep down the middle.
Burke’s big gainer sparked the next Ave Maria series, but the Gyrenes’ shovel pass out of their kicking posture went nowhere after pass breakups by Bethel and Davon Starks stopped the bleeding.
“When they said ‘Navy,’ I knew something was wrong,” White said. “So I moved back a yard, and they dashed to my side. The charge was stopped by Zyan Bethel, and then I came in and cleaned it up.”
The dagger was then delivered on a slant-and-go by GC.
“When we were going trips to the right, we knew the safeties were rolling down fairly hard,” Johnson recalled. “So I had the choice of sitting or going for broke, and sure enough, that safety slid down and put my guy in a position where I had to beat him, and I made a play and scored.”
In the third quarter, Barbour and Tucker Woolum each scored a 3-yard TD run to seal the victory.
The Tigers, who started the season rated No. 13 in NAIA, travel to Florida on Thursday for a Saturday matchup against Webber International.
Cronin, who was given with a framed jersey No. 25 in celebration of his silver anniversary season, remarked, “There were a few faults for our first excursion that I’d want to see cleaned up, but they’re fixable.” “The ferocity appealed to me.”