The Victory Sports Network First Down Classic featured No. 9 Ottawa against No. 24 Baker. The place was absolutely packed. Nearly 40 minutes before game time about 200 people had found their seats…20 minutes later people were wondering if they were going to have seats. The idea to put bleachers in the one endzone was brilliant. It was packed with students and others and made for a fantastic atmosphere. Earlier this week I posted the VSN First Down Classic Preview. I took some guff for saying Ottawa would have the better defense on this night. In the end, I wasn’t far off. Here are some thoughts from tonight’s game…
Special teams can make or break you. You hear that from time to time. Tonight it was certainly something to consider. Clarence Anderson took the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Braves gained the early momentum. It was a simple reverse play that Shane Gimzo handed off to Anderson and, well, you can say speed took care of the rest. Field Goals proved to be a difference maker. Baker had a 34-yard field goal that missed wide to the right, while Ottawa’s Casey Weider missed from 31 and 37 yards, before connecting from 41. Both teams have inconsistent kickers and it could be a difference maker down the stretch. Need to get the kickers more work in practice….stop standing on the sideline and watching.
An established running game usually leads to an open passing attack. The problem, neither team could establish a running game. Beginning with Baker…Scott Meyer can be a legit RB, I truly believe. When there was a hole, he hit it. Plain and simple. The offensive line struggled tonight with a pretty solid defensive line from Ottawa. Baker QB Jake Morse carried the ball seven times for 35 yards, while Meyer had 14 attempts for 22 yards. Ottawa was worse in the game, totaling 34 total rushing yards. Take away the fake punt rush of 12 yards and the Ottawa offense rushed for 22 yards. They mixed in two quarterbacks and three running backs and could only find 22 rushing yards? Not good. They have to establish a running game in the next two weeks before their next contest. If there was one thing for both teams that was absolutely terrible, it was the rushing attack (or lack thereof).
Catch the ball
I hate to call out individual players all the time, but this is college football. If you can’t catch the ball at this level….well, you get called out. Kyle Bolton did have some big plays, but he dropped two passes that at worst would have been momentum shifters and 40+ yard gains….possibly six points on both. When your quarterbacks are struggling and trying to get comfortable you have to help them out. This could have been a different football game if these passes were caught. While on the subject, holding on to the football would be a good idea as well. Jake Green has a big reception that had the offense moving, but the football was poked away and Ottawa took over. Simple mistakes, game-changing outcome.
Drink fluids, eat bananas, drink fluids….repeat
There is nothing you hate to see more in a football game then the stoppage of action because someone is in so much pain they can’t move. No, I am not talking about an injury (that would be understandable). I am talking about cramps. Too many times tonight we saw guys go down with cramps. It is not rocket science to know that the risk of cramp is minimized by staying hydrated. If you play college football, or any sport for that matter, why on Earth are you not drinking a lot of water every day? Each time you go through the lunch line in the caf, grab a banana. It is sickening to watch these athletes grab at the ground because they are cramping so badly. One player for instance, Jake Johnson suffered some serious cramps. He was attended to on the field before finally walking off on his own. Minutes later he dropped on the OU sideline in obvious pain and was immediately being stretched out. This allowed for Bobby Adamson to get some more reps at QB and throw the only touchdown pass for the Braves, not good for Johnson.
Entering tonight’s game we knew we would see four quarterbacks take snaps, two from each team. Ottawa used Jake Johnson in the first quarter before giving Bobby Adamson his shot in the second quarter. It looked like Adamson was able to move the offense a little better in his quarter of play. The third quarter saw Johnson and then Johnson again in the final frame. However, a cramp injury allowed Adamson back into the game and the UNK transfer through a beautiful ball to Clarence Anderson for a touchdown. Adamson may have won the chance to start in the Braves next game over the final few minutes. For Baker, they decided to rotate quarterbacks in every series. The problem with doing this is neither quarterback appeared to get comfortable in the game. The two needed back to back series to get a better feel of the game. Neither quarterback was impressive. Zach Faust had some balls dropped by receivers, but he missed some targets bad throughout the game. Jake Morse didn’t look great, but one thing I liked about him was his awareness to tuck and run the football when he had to. Unfortunately for Morse, he suffered an apparent head injury that will likely leave him sidelined for a couple of weeks. Faust will need to step up and prove he can be the guy during this time.
Both defenses players well. Here are some guys that should lead both teams throughout the season. I really liked Colton Miller for Baker. He is very good, but has an attitude problem. He was penalized unsportsmanlike conduct in the game…should not have happened. Matt Brock is a pretty solid middle linebacker. He flew around the football field and made big plays. These two guys should be leaders all season for the Wildcats. D.J. Grayson will likely end up as one of the top defensive lineman in the KCAC and maybe in the country. He has a motor that never stops and knows how to step up when his team needs a big defensive play. Watch for No. 39 (with the goggles) all season long. Seth Homolka wasn’t too special on this night, but will be one of the top players. Josh Hojje found himself all over the field and in the area all night long. He, too, should be a leader.
On a different note, I had the chance to talk to a couple of legends during the evening. First, Dr. Ted Kessinger stopped by the booth. It was the first time I had seen him since his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame…what an honor. Before the game I stepped outside the booth and in front to shake hands Tom Hedrick and wish him well for the broadcast as he called the action for the Baker Wildcats. Mr. Hedrick spent time behind the mic for many professional and collegiate teams. I read a book he wrote for broadcasters, “The Art of Sportscasting.” It is pretty cool to talk to legends, even if they are at the small college level.
There are some thoughts to close out the evening on the VSN First Down Classic. I do want to thank everyone who helped out to make our broadcast possible including, Coach Grossner, Coach Kessinger, both athletic directors, both sports information directors, Tony Kucera (producer), fans, and the many others I am failing to mention. Remember, you can watch the game live and on-demand (after 2:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, Aug 29). To watch the game, click here.