By David Roberts
This past Saturday, the College hosted SUNY for the first regular season home game since Nov. 6, 2019. The meaning of the day went further than just the return of Lions football — it held a special place in the hearts of many, as it marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The College paid homage to those involved in the tragedy by wearing commemorative badges on the right side of their helmets. Additionally, they honored the active service members, first responders and ROTC who serve the local community.
Fans and students even got to watch a Black Hawk Helicopter land at the College prior to kickoff.
In place of usual starter Dave Jachera, junior accounting major Jon Donegan led the team to start the game. The Lions received the ball first and went to work in a competitive, evenly matched first quarter of play.
The first drive started off slow until Donegan made the crowd erupt with a 20-yard strike to junior criminology major Joey Bellamy Jr. off of a sprint-out pass. But the drive stalled after a fumble that was recovered by SUNY’s defense.
The Lions stayed diligent and were able to hold off SUNY’s passing game. The momentum was back to the offense with a fourth-down stop, thanks to the combined pass defense from freshman marketing major Ryan McKinney, and junior interactive multimedia major Justin Dailey. However, the offense failed to capitalize on this opportunity and ended up punting.
The defense took the field again and executed with captain linebacker Gavin Liepe coming in hot off the edge by causing a strip-sack fumble that was recovered by the Lions. This set the Lions up with sufficient field position to get their first points of the season, which were soon earned after a 46-yard field goal kicked by junior mathematics major Bobby Wortman.
It looked as if the Lions had something going, as the defense once again snatched the ball away from SUNY’s offense after an interception by sophomore finance major Malin Jelinski. The offense was able to piece together enough yardage after the turnover to garner another three points, thanks to another field goal by Wortman — the last points the Lions scored that evening.
SUNY turned the tide in the second quarter via air assault and scored three passing touchdowns on three straight possessions to close out the half. At this point, the game was still a two-possession game for the Lions, sitting at 6 to 21.
The Red Dragons topped off their six-minute-long drive with a rushing touchdown, raising the score at 6 to 28. The Lions took over for the first time of the half. The run game was no longer working for the offense, and a fourth straight punt was made as well as another touchdown earned by the Red Dragons in the following drive.
As the third quarter came to a close, the Lions had their punt blocked and SUNY scored on yet another touchdown. The final scoring play came in the fourth quarter with a Red Dragons pick-six.
The Lions crafted some points in the end, but came up short with a red-zone interception by the SUNY defense.
The final: Lions 6, Dragons 49.
The Lions will enter the bye-week with many questions left to be answered after being outscored 90 to 6 to start the year. Offensive woes must be answered, as you cannot expect the defense to carry a team that cannot put up points. One has to wonder, when will things start to click?
The offense has turned the ball over four times, suffered nine sacks, and is averaging 1.78 yards per carrying to start the season. This offensive conundrum must be leaving fans as puzzled as I am, as the College’s quarterbacks are completing nearly 60% of their passes and averaging 8.6 yards per completion. Why is it that the pass is not utilized more?
Now, I am no mathematician, but 8.6 yards per completion sounds a hell of a lot better than 1.78 yards per carry.
The problem seems to boil down to playcalling. There is so much talent on this offense that has seemingly not been tapped into. Quarterback Dave Jachera is quick as a blur and has a big body receiving core. There is also 6’5” tight end Thomas Burke, and the pair of 6’2” WR’s juniors Max Hayford and Matthew Macaulay.
Predictability kills. If the offense can get creative and do their job efficiently, games will be more controllable. Games cannot be won if you cannot score, simple as that. Hopefully, things will get better for the Lions after the much-needed bye-week.