Reacting Better


Rob SgarlataThis weekend we opened our Patriot League schedule with our game against Colgate in Hamilton, New York. On our trip to Hamilton on Friday we conducted our run through at SUNY-Cortland.  I would like to thank Coach MacNeill and the staff at Cortland for allowing us to use their facilities.  The New York Jets conduct their preseason camp at Cortland and it was a great place to practice.  Hamilton is not an easy place to get to, but as always, thank you to Bruce Simmons and Robbin Robinson for the organizing and executing the tailgate.  It is always great to see the Blue and Gray on the road.  I know the players and coaches appreciate the lengths the Gridiron Club goes to, to support the Hoyas.

“Take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves.”  We gave great effort, but in the end we did not take care of the little things.  Colgate is known for its run game and ball control.  We knew we would have to maximize our possessions on offense and limit Colgate’s possessions to win the game.  Unfortunately, we were able to accomplish only one of these goals and we lost to a well-coached, tough Colgate team 19-0.

Whether you win or lose on any given Saturday, after reviewing the film, two things are certain.  After a win you are never as good as you think, and after a loss you are never as bad as you think.  Anytime you are shut out, the initial reaction is the think we were terrible on offense.  After reviewing the film and the statistics, we were not poor, so much as we were inconsistent.  We had 12 possessions in the game.  In 11 of these drives we had an unforced error.  These errors ranged from a dropped ball, to a fumbled handoff, to a protection breakdown.  In total we allowed five sacks and had five three and outs on the day.

On the positive side, we were able to run the football effectively at times.  Kyle Nolan, Danny Wright and Jo’el Kimpela all ran well.  Mike Cimilluca, Matt Buckman and Justin Hill continued to be consistent targets for Nolan in the passing game.  It was also nice to see Harry Glor continue to rebound from off-season surgery and make three catches in the contest.  Despite these efforts, we did not do enough of the little things to get first downs and consistently move the chains.  This obviously showed up on the scoreboard.

Defending Colgate is always a challenge on the defensive side of the ball.  Colgate’s Head Coach Dan Hunt and his staff always do a great job with the run game.  Our defensive staff, led by Defensive Coordinator, Luke Thompson had a solid game plan.  We executed well for most of the day.  The ten points we allowed matched Colgate’s lowest offensive output on the season.  Coach Thompson emphasized limiting Colgate’s possessions and point total all week.  We defended 10 drives on the day.  We forced five punts, stopped two 4th down attempts and Garrett Powers had an interception to end another drive.

After the first half Coach Thompson challenged the defense to rise to the occasion in the second half.  They responded allowed just 60 yards rushing in the half.  We also forced four three and outs to start the second half.  It was a total team effort with significant contributions from Jordan Richardson, John Egan, Nick Alfieri and Alec May.  To do justice to the effort, I would need to list all sixteen defensive players who participated in the game.

In our win against Brown we won the kicking game and it directly contributed to our victory.  Saturday, the kicking game was a microcosm of the entire game.  We did not take care of the little things.  We had two punts blocked that Colgate turned into nine points in the first half.  I coach the punt team and take responsibility for both of these blocks.  Both blocks were caused by poor alignments and technique.  We have already started to correct these issues during Sunday’s practice.  Despite these blocks, Harry McCollum had another good day punting for us.  He averaged over 40 yards a punt and placed two punts inside Colgate’s 20 yard line.

On the ride back to the Hilltop, I texted the entire team and coaching staff.  My message was simple.  If we play Hoya Football we can beat any team on our schedule.  Attention to detail is a key aspect to playing Hoya Football. We want to be known as a detail oriented, tough football team.  One sequence I highlighted to the team focused on the end of the first half.  We had a punt blocked for a touchdown with just under four minutes left in the second quarter. The following series the offense had a negative play on first down and we went three and out.  This placed the defense back on the field.  We then allowed Colgate’s quarterback to run for a touchdown to end the half.

When faced with adversity, we need to exhibit SISU and overcome.  Following the blocked punt, the offense needed to string together a few first downs and allow the defense to get off of the field.  The defense needed to come up with a stop to get us to halftime.  I tell the players that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% about how you react.  To win versus good teams, we need to react better in these situations.  As this week of preparation starts we will get back to playing tough, smart Hoya Football.  When we take care of the little things in our future games, we will be successful.  A highlight film of the game can be found here.

This Saturday we will host Harvard University for the first time.  We are excited for the challenge.  Harvard is a perennial power in the Ivy League.  They are currently 2-0 with a win against Brown this past weekend by a score of 22-14.  The game is at noon and we are expecting a great environment on the Hilltop.  I hope you can make it to the game.

Rob Sgarlata

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