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Intensity, learning featured in GSU's Blue-White game

ATLANTA -- With injuries depleting depth and the team still learning a new system under a new coaching staff, it's not surprising the format for Georgia State's Blue-White spring football game was a little looser than most years.

But there was at least one facet about the concluding scrimmage to spring practice played before more than 1,800 fans Saturday at the Georgia Dome new head coach Trent Miles took very seriously -- and it was one he let his team know about loud and clear.

"We didn't take the field with the emotion that I wanted," Miles said. "When you step out on this field for a game day, there's a certain emotional level you have to be at, and we came out as if it was like a ... conditioning game. We didn't come out (in) game mode. So, if we don't do it right, guess what? We go back in, and we're going to do it again."

So, the Panthers did just that, and ran out on the field to the band playing the school's fight song a second time.

Miles and his staff eventually saw the intensity they were looking for throughout the rest of the scrimmage.

While the low numbers and large learning curve limited how much specific progress the team could make Saturday and throughout spring practice, Miles liked the general progress he saw as the Panthers try to put the disappointment of last year's 1-10 season behind them and move up to FBS level and the Sun Belt Conference this fall.

"We were more situational and not worried about playing a game," Miles said. "That will come at the end of August. Our kids played hard.

"They're learning our expectation level as far as flying around to the football and trying to be an aggressive football team that plays very physical, and we're learning that. Any time they're getting better, making progress and learning those things, and you're using it as a teaching opportunity, you're going in the right direction."

All three individuals involved in the battle for the Panthers' starting quarterback job had their moments when they were headed in the right direction during Saturday's 50-play controlled scrimmage.

The incumbent, Brookwood grad Ben McLane, looked strong at times -- especially in his first possession under center, which ended in Will Lutz's 35-yard field goal -- and finished with four completions in seven pass attempts for 25 yards.

Meanwhile, fellow redshirt sophomore Ronnie Bell also had a good day, completing 4 of 6 passes for 49 yards, while junior college transfer Clay Chastain wound up 4 of 9 for 82 yards, including the only touchdown pass of the day, a 32-yard scoring strike to Desi Banks.

"Overall, we did a good job," McLane said of the offense's overall performance Saturday. "Of course, we've still got a long way to go, but I'm happy where we are right now.

"We actually got (the entire offense) installed (during spring practice). We're going to add a few more wrinkles in there. We pretty much reduced it to Day 1, install stuff just so everyone could fly around, and you weren't thinking too much. It's all still relatively new, so we didn't want too many mental mistakes."

And there were few mistakes -- physical or mental -- on the day, with defensive lineman Joe Lockley's interception of a Chastain pass batted at the line by Nermin Delic being the only turnover by the offense.

Even on the only other loose ball -- a fumble by running back Duvall Smith near the goal line during an overtime possession simulation -- wound up OK when guard Tim Wynn pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for the scrimmage's only other touchdown.

Actually, Smith was eventually credited with the score after a consultation of the scrimmage's officials and finished with 39 yards on nine carries, while junior college transfer Gerald Howze ran for 25 yards on five carries in limited action.

Among the defensive highlights were sacks by Joseph Peterson, Allen McKay, Nate Paxton and Robert Smith, while Norcross grad Terry Hollingshed added a tackle for loss.

Lutz also added another field goal of 40 yards in the live scrimmage, and hit five of seven during field goal drills just before halftime.