Ouachita football head coach Jeff Fitzgerald will be the first to say his Lions looked like an incomplete product against Ruston in a 20-6 loss Thursday night in the Bayou Jamb 2019.
And that’s OK, for the time being.
“We’re a young football team,” Fitzgerald said. “I just continue to encourage them because we have far way to go. Right now, I feel like we haven’t gelled yet as a team. But this is just a jamboree. Everybody’s record is still 0-0. We’re going to get after it and get better.”
And there will be plenty of work to accomplish for both the coaches and players, as the Lions will attempt to correct some issues up front on the offensive line. Throughout the two-quarter scrimmage, Ouachita struggled to get a consistent run game going, and Ruston was able to pressure quarterback Zach Shaw repeatedly throughout the jamboree. Ouachita finished with less than 35 yards of total offense. Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh thought this was his team’s biggest matchup advantage after the win.
“We’ve got some experienced guys in there, some heavy guys on the inside that can get after the quarterback pretty good,” Baugh said. “I think they’re still trying to figure out who they’re putting in spots too. They don’t have experience in that spot, so that turned out to be a good matchup for us.”
After cleaning up some first-half turnovers, Ruston produced long drives on the ground and scored two late touchdowns to pull away from Ouachita. After Shaw fumbled inside the Lions’ own 20-yard line with less than four minutes to play, Deontre Griffin punched in a two-yard run to expand the Bearcats’ lead to 14-6. After another three-and-out, Ruston put its two-minute drill offense to work and got positive results. A short drive ended with quarterback Jaden Procell finding Cam Crowe between two Ouachita defenders for a 29-yard touchdown.
“We wanted to get an opportunity to work our two-minute offense,” Baugh said. “It wasn’t a situation where we’re trying to run up the scoreboard. We were using it as a practice, and I thought that was a good opportunity. We should have gotten out of bounds a couple of times there. We’ll have some good coaching points to go over. It’s good to do that now instead of having to do that in a real game.”
Procell garnered most of his offensive statistics in the second half, while Shaw never found his rhythm and finished the day just four-of-12 for 36 yards.
In the first half, Ouachita’s defense and special teams were opportunistic.
The Bearcats drew first blood midway through the first half, as Ketravion Hargrove split two Ouachita defensive backs on a 38-yard touchdown run. But Ouachita was quick to answer.
Ouachita regained momentum when Chaunzavia Lewis broke free on a 76-yard kickoff return, placing the Lions at Ruston’s 20 to start the ensuing drive. As Ouachita’s running game struggled to gain steam, the Lions faced a 4th-and-7 and elected to go for it inside the red zone. Ouachita quarterback Zach Shaw stood strong in the pocket with a cornerback blitz providing pressure. Shaw stepped up and delivered a strike to Dearrion Jacobs at the Ruston 2 for the first down. Two Chaunzavia Lewis runs later produced six points on the board, but a missed extra point led to a 7-6 deficit with three minutes to play in the half.
Ouachita’s defense was challenged early in the game with poor field position, and the Lions more than answered the challenge repeatedly.
Ruston opened the game with a 50-yard return from Dylan Owens, but the gift of a short field was wasted by a 3-and-out. Ouachita defenders flew to the football to force the punt and gain possession. However, a three-and-out followed by a poor punt placed Ruston back inside Ouachita’s 40-yard line to start the next drive.
Ruston’s good field position was short lived, as Ouachita’s Jamal Hoard picked off a deep pass attempt on the ensuing play.
The Bearcats will open the season against Neville on Forsythe Avenue, while Ouachita travels to Bastrop.