Hartman plays like Gold, Buchner feeling Blue as Gold wins 24-0
Thomas Zwiller | Saturday, April 22, 2023
Last year’s annual Blue-Gold scrimmage game treated fans to a bright sunny day with warm temperatures. This year’s installment, however, met fans in the 40s with an on-and-off drizzle, though the damp crowd of 32,942 did not let the weather dampen their spirits.
The game started with the Gold team taking possession on their own 25 (there were no kickoffs in the game) and an incomplete pass by graduate student QB Sam Hartman. Though the pass fell incomplete, an unnecessary roughness penalty moved the team Gold to the 40, gifting them a first down.
Hartman then found freshman wide receiver Jaden Greathouse for a 21-yard pass, setting up a sophomore running back Gi’Bran Payne rush. Though Payne did not get any on his first attempt up the middle, his second attempt was much more productive, as he picked up 30 before being tackled at the Blue nine.
After that, Hartman took to the air and found junior wide receiver Jayden Thomas at the seven. Thomas took the ball the distance and earned the first score of the scrimmage. After the PAT, Gold led 7-0.
Blue began with the ball on their own 35, where junior quarterback Tyler Buchner was immediately sacked by senior linebacker Jordan Botelho, who came in uncontested off the edge. After completing a pass for no gain, Buchner was sacked again, this time for a loss of six by graduate student defensive linemen Howard Cross III. Blue punted the ball away, and it was returned to the Blue 23 by junior safety Marty Auer.
To start his second drive, Hartman appeared to call an audible before sending a deep ball to Thomas for 46 yards. Now in a rhythm, Hartman made back-to-back completions of 11 and four yards before handing off the ball to Payne twice. Now situated on the Blue one, it was Hartman who carried the ball, this time for a touchdown, putting Gold up 14-0.
Blue began with the ball again on their own 35 and opened the drive with junior running back Audric Estime, who got eight on his first carry. After a Buchner pass attempt to Estime fell incomplete, Blue called Estime’s number again. They were rewarded, as the junior earned a first down with a rush up the middle of seven.
Blue began to make more progress, and Buchner completed a pass of 11 to get Blue to the Gold 35. Buchner followed up his first completion for positive yardage with an incompletion (almost intercepted), a loss of one and then a pass that sophomore cornerback Jaden Mickey intercepted.
After the turnover, Gold picked up right where it left off, making steady progress until a rush by graduate student wide receiver Matt Salerno was blown up for a loss of eight. Though Hartman made a nine-yard pass to Payne, Gold failed to convert a long third and punted the ball away.
After a brief three-and-out, Blue sent the ball back to Gold, and Gold went back to work with three third-down conversions by Hartman. Hartman capped off the drive with a thirteen-yard pass to Salerno in the endzone, giving Gold a commanding 21-0 lead.
The touchdown pass would also serve as Hartman’s last game action. He finished the day by going 13 for 16 (81%) for 189 yards, tallying two scores through the air and a third on the ground. Add his QB Rating of 221.7 and the grad student could not have asked for a better outing.
While not committing to one quarterback as a starter, Freeman praised Hartman’s performance.
“When we went out to look for a transfer portal quarterback, you don’t look for the second, third, fourth — you look for the best player in the country that would fit in your locker room. Sam Hartman showed today why he was extremely successful at Wake Forest, and I think he’ll be extremely successful here,” Freeman said.
Buchner, meanwhile, played on and started his next drive with an incompletion before making back-to-back completions of 15 and 14 yards. The drive stopped after Estime lost four on a second-and-5 and Buchner threw consecutive incompletions for a turnover on downs.
Buchner finished the scrimmage going 8-18, only netting 44 yards with an interception to boot. Despite Buchner’s poor outing, Freeman maintained that the two quarterbacks are incredibly close and that the team still has a quarterback battle.
“You can’t determine a winner or loser based off one practice, practice fifteen. And you can’t base a decision off of what we view as a certain outcome. There is a lot that goes into it. There is a lot that goes into a quarterback battle, but obviously quarterback play,” Freeman said.
With Hartman on the sideline, sophomore quarterback Steve Angeli came in as quarterback for Gold. While the team did not score, they moved the ball into Blue territory in the last five minutes of the half.
The second half started much slower than the first, with a punt and a turnover on downs. Buchner was at the helm for Team Blue for two of those drivers. The first real action of the quarter came as Gold began to move the ball, with graduate student running back Sam Assaf extending a drive by gaining six on a critical third-and-five. Gold did end up turning the ball over, as Angeli was sacked for a loss of three on a fourth-and-two.
However, Gold would only be on defense for a short time, as Blue went for and failed to convert a fourth-and-4 on their own 49. Gold began what would ultimately be the game’s final scoring drive, as sophomore kicker Zac Yoakam nailed his 28-yard field goal try, extending the Gold lead to 24.
The remaining 12:48 was spent by both teams trading drives ending fourth down conversion attempts, all of which failed. The game’s final play was a fitting interception by senior safety Xavier Watts, sealing the dominant Gold victory. Despite the lopsided affair, Coach Freeman was happy with not just the scrimmage but the entirety of the spring season.
“As I told this group, you look at 15 practices and the progression we’ve made; it’s tremendous. They’ve got to finish up here with finals and get a couple weeks off. They get back here in June, and it’s time to go because we play Week 0. Overall picture, just from the spring, I’m really pleased with the progression of this football team.”