FORT WAYNE – For a moment or three over a rainy Halloween lunch hour, Saint Francis football coach Kevin Donley revisited an ancient horror.
No, not the come-from-ahead 28-24 loss to unranked Robert Morris last Saturday. An ancient horror.
For this one you have to go back 30 years or more, to Anderson College and Donleys first head coaching gig. The Ravens were playing Olivet Nazarene. A common thread between then and now was about to materialize.
We were undefeated and ranked second in the country, Donley recalls. We were up 13-0 at 13-something in the first quarter. So, boom, boom, boom. We miss a PAT, and then rigor mortis set in, and it was kind of, Ah, this is going to be easy.
We ended up losing the game 14-13. So, Ive been through many of these.
And the object lesson, as the battered Cougars prepare to face 1-6 Concordia at Bishop John M. DArcy Stadium, is that you must remain vigilant. And thats especially true when your opponent senses you might be vulnerable.
The object lesson is this: We are not the team that lined up against William Penn and Saint Ambrose, Donley says. Its not even close. So everybody else has got to step up their game, because this program has set some kind of record – weve got 176 weeks in a row in the top 25 – and theres a target on our backs always.
When you have people missing, it gives (your opponent) confidence. Maybe we got a shot. Thats especially true if you allow them to have some success. So youve to make some plays.
They did not make enough in blowing a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter last week, and now they are down to their fourth running back and (maybe) their third quarterback.
Jason Nicodemus, once sixth on the depth chart, started and ran for 82 yards last week before departing with a sprained ankle that will keep him out of the lineup today. And quarterback Josh Miller, held out last week to rest his own chronically dinged ankle, has been day-to-day this week and could possibly yield again to Wes Hunsucker, wholl get the start if Miller cant go.
Freshman Aaron Harris, who ran for 29 yards in Nicodemus stead, is the next man up at running back.
Were obviously decimated with injuries right now, Donley says. Its an opportunity for some younger people to step up and stake their claim to some things.
And an opportunity for everyone, young or old, to put together the complete game that has so far eluded them.
We really cant keep continuing this pattern of half-play – playing the game half the time, center Zach Greiner says.
Weve got to come out for a full 60 minutes this time and show that we can play a whole game. Lot of times it just seems like we get into a mode where we dont have that sense of urgency like we need to. I think it just comes down to execution. We have to go out and just keep making sure we execute plays at the right time.
Its something they didnt do enough of last week.
We play that team 10 times, we beat them nine, Donley says. But last week our receivers really had to step up and make plays, and we dropped six balls. Half of those were in urgent situations, which you cant do And defensively, we werent able to make plays when we needed to.
It was just one of those days. We played about a quarter of a football game, I thought, pretty hard.
Now for the other three quarters.