Apologies to Jon Landau, who once said “I have seen rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Well, I have seen NCAA Division II’s future, and its name is California University of Pennsylvania. Saturday’s game was billed as a clash of PSAC and Division II titans between the West Chester University Golden Rams and the California Vulcans, and when the dust settled, it was the team from outside of Pittsburgh that emerged as the team to beat.
By handling WCU in the manner in which they did on Saturday, and with the great ease at which they’ve plowed through the teams on their schedule, California has emerged as the clear-cut favorite to win the National Championship.
The Vulcans dominated in every phase of the game, leaving the Golden Rams with nothing but a game film of horrific proportions to stew over until these two teams potentially meet again further on up the road in the playoffs- that is, if West Chester makes it far enough for a rematch to be possible.
Because, let’s face it: not only did the better team invade Farrell Stadium and depart with a victory, securing the region’s top playoff spot in the process, but they authored the book explaining what it takes to beat the Golden Rams as well. Now, whether there is a team capable of duplicating California’s dominance over WCU remains to be seen, but surely a 30-14 loss was not what Bill Zwaan and Co. had in mind going into Saturday’s affair.
Say what you will about the offense struggling to establish a running game, the defense not forcing a turnover, and California being the far superior team, yada, yada, yada, but this game came down to which team would make the fewest mistakes and that team was not the Golden Rams.
Between quarterback Bill Zwaan Jr.’s three interceptions, missed tackles on defense, dropped passes in crucial situations and the second kickoff return for a touchdown allowed in as many weeks, there were more then enough errors made throughout the game to fuel California’s victory.
As if the Vulcans needed any help disposing of West Chester.
California has been ranked atop the NCAA Division II Northeast Rankings in three of four weeks since being first released on Oct. 7. Deservedly so, as head coach John Luckhardt and company have toured the state, knocking off every team in their wake en route to a perfect 10-0 record.
Just how dominant have the Vulcans been this season?
Put it this way, West Chester’s 14 points represents the highest total Cal’s defense (ranked No. 1 overall in NCAA Division II) has surrendered all season. Opponents are averaging 7.2 points per game, 52.6 rushing yards per game, 133.4 passing yards per game, and a total of just 186 yards per game offensively. Those numbers put California atop every meaningful defensive category.
Those stats jumped off of the page and onto the field Saturday when Cal’s dominance was on display for all to see. The Vulcans did not make any mistakes in this one, and they took advantage of the ones committed by the Golden Rams. Conversely, West Chester was unable to establish any offensive momentum- aside from two scoring drives fueled by great starting field position- and wore down defensively late in the game.
Zwaan Jr. was sacked twice and hurried more times then one could count. The Golden Rams managed only 56 yards on the ground and 161 yards through the air. Not to mention, the defense gave up 318 yards and 23 points against an offense missing its most potent weapon, running back Brandon Lombardy. His backups proved too tough to handle.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Golden Rams are not a quality football team, or a contender for a Regional Championship or more in the weeks to come. That sort of assessment simply would not be fair, or warranted. However, California simply proved to be the better team on Saturday, and it will be incredibly difficult to venture into California and knock off the Vulcans in post-season play.
After all, there might not be a team in the entire NCAA capable of driving the death nail into California’s season.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show every Saturday from noon-2pm on 91.7 FM WCUR and is syndicated worldwide online at www.wcur.fm. He is a third-year student majoring in communications studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu