Ninety-six yards in penalties, an interception, a fumble lost by a tailback along the sidelines following a 54-yard run, three sacks and oh yeah, four fumbled snaps were all committed by one team in Saturday’s 49-21 West Chester victory over Clarion.If you guessed the Golden Rams as the squad tripping all over themselves, trying to give this game away, then you’re the winner of today’s contest.
For a team that prides itself on playing nearly perfect football week in and week out, while fighting for a conference championship and more, Saturday’s blowout win should sound some alarms in Zwaanville.
Saturday’s dominant offensive performance not withstanding, the Golden Rams did just about everything they could to allow Clarion to hang around in this game much longer then they had any business doing. The Golden Eagles tallied touchdowns on three of its first four drives. Somehow the game was tied at 21 with 5:23 remaining in the first half.
Luckily, while the defense was sleepwalking through the first thirty minutes of play, the Golden Ram offense was putting on a clinic against the inexperienced Clarion defense. Yes, the offense posted a staggering 572 yards of total offense, including 366 through the air while scoring seven total touchdowns, but at one point, it appeared that even those numbers would not be enough.
Head Coach Bill Zwaan was apprehensive about his team going into this game a little overconfident, and to Clarion’s credit, they took advantage of that, at least early on. In the first half, West Chester surrendered 113 rushing yards and a touchdown, while leading 35-21.
“[Our overconfidence] showed, the penalties, the fumbles, just mistakes that aren’t our type of football,” Zwaan said. “The types of mistakes that we can’t afford to make when we start playing teams like Bloomsburg and [California] and those teams, but we know that, so we’re going to have to get it straightened out. Our little lack of focus in practice really showed up in this game.”
Going forward, the task of eliminating those mistakes falls on the shoulders of none other then Zwaan himself. This is a team, and he is a coach, who has been through the rigors of postseason play and the numerous wars of attrition that come along the way. The track record shows that the ship will be tightened in plenty of time before next week’s tilt in Shippensburg.
Thankfully for West Chester, the mental errors that were so evident Saturday against Clarion came on a day when the offense was firing on all cylinders, and lets face it, they happened to be playing a team that has won just one of it’s last thirteen games.
“The idea is that if we want to be a great team, then we need to clean up all of the mistakes and take care of business” Zwaan said, “We’re good, but we need to get to that great level to play against those teams ahead on our schedule that will make or break whether we get an NCAA playoff berth.”
Stop the presses.
If the sixth winningest coach in school history is worried about securing a playoff berth this season, then this game might be more of a gut check then what first met the eye.
By now, anyone even vaguely familiar with this team knows ad nauseam the tremendous amount of intangibles on the positive side of the ledger that this team has in hopes of a PSAC Championship and deep playoff run.
Take all of those factors, the 20 of 22 returning starters, the playoff tested veterans, the hungry core of youthful players and mix in a dash of Bloomsburg losing two of its first three games, and an offense that appears to be hitting its stride entering the fourth week, and you have the makings of a potentially special final eight regular season games and playoff run.
That is if the mistakes can be fixed. Because let’s face it, the likes of California University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s (Ind.) and even Bloomsburg will be far from as forgiving as Clarion proved to be on Saturday.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show, Saturdays from noon-2pm on 91.7 FM WCUR and is syndicated worldwide online at www.wcur.fm
Matt Lombardo is a third year student majoring in communication Studies and can be reached at: ML606516@wcupa.edu