One Big Let Down

 

 

Mike Nanna

The Colgate Raiders’ offense, like an exotic car, can run beautifully at moments but tends to sputter at the wrong times. On Saturday it was that inconsistency, along with some questionable officiating, that ultimately cost the Raiders (1-2) the game. Running back David Sinisi and the undefeated Monmouth Hawks (4-0) of the Northeast Conference marched into Andy Kerr Stadium and defeated the Raiders 17-12, marking just the third time in their last 25 home games the Raiders have lost, two of which have come against opponents from the Northeast Conference.

While Sinisi’ two touchdowns were the difference in this one, botched opportunities played a big role in taking down the Raiders. The first of these missed opportunities came on Monmouth’s first drive, where the Raiders had stalled the Hawks offense and put them into a fourth-and-six punting scenario. Unfortunately for the Raiders, the Hawks never punted the ball, instead opting to send punter Sean Dennis scrambling twelve yards for an important first down. The Hawks momentum could not be stopped, carrying Monmouth all the way to a 7-0 lead by way of a Sinisi three-yard touchdown plunge.

Standout junior linebacker Mike Gallihugh revealed the defense’s mental toughness however, asserting that “Our defense has a short memory. We don’t think about momentum or past plays; we just line up and play each snap like it’s the first.”

While the element of surprise perhaps could be to blame for falling behind, the Raider offense had no excuses for their struggles. After driving forty yards to the Monmouth fifteen yard line, Senior quarterback Mike Saraceno threw a second-quarter interception into the hands of the Hawks’ David Jiles. At the end of the quarter, the offense again could not convert, this time killed by a 16-yard clipping penalty that took the Raiders from inside the ten-yard line all the way back to the twenty-five. This penalty led to a meaningless completion from Saraceno to sophomore tailback Jordan Scott for fourteen yards as time expired.

Penalties again hurt the Raiders when a 58-yard touchdown pass from Saraceno to junior wide receiver Erik Burke was called back due to a ten-yard holding penalty. While the Raiders persevered and managed to drive to the Monmouth 26-yard line, three straight incompletions from Saraceno ended the drive there. Another tough break was handed to the Raiders when Saraceno’s touchdown pass to Burke was ruled an incompletion on a very questionable call.

With the Raider offense struggling, Monmouth extended their lead to 14-0 on Sinisi’s second touchdown run of the game from 1-yard out. As if penalties had not hurt them enough, the Hawks 74-yard third quarter touchdown drive was jumpstarted by a 15-yard kicking catching interference penalty on the kickoff.

Commenting on the six penalties for 61 yards, Burke had this to say. “Penalties kill drives and momentum. We can be a great football team, we just need to cut back on mental mistakes”

Down, but not out, the Raiders responded late, rallying for two touchdowns. The first was set up by a marvelous 48-yard kickoff return by sophomore David Morgan, ending in a Robert Wenger one-yard run. Saraceno played well on the drive, completing two passes for 21-yards and rushing for an additional 6 on an important first down run to the Monmouth 3-yard line. The extra-point attempt by Mike Buck was blocked though, which would prove costly later in the game.

Colgate’s second fourth quarter touchdown came off of a spectacular 72 yard fumble recovery and return by senior safety Geoff Bean. Unfortunately the Raiders were hurt yet again by a debatable call, this time for an unsportmanlike penalty called on Bean for pointing up towards the sky. This call forced Colgate into a long two-point conversion situation which they could not convert. A Monmouth field goal by Fred Weingart iced the game and the Raiders final attempt ended on a second Saraceno interception.

The Raiders had a number of solid contributors in defeat, most notably linebackers Gallihugh and David Wesley who had 16 and nine tackles respectively, as well as defensive end Ryan Keller who had eight tackles including two for a loss. Junior Cody Williams also made five tackles and deflected two passes.

On offense, David Morgan had five receptions for 84 yards in addition to his big kick return. Standout receiver Burke also played well in defeat with three catches, but more notably had two touchdowns taken away from him on questionable calls. Both of Colgate’s offensive stars struggled however, with Saraceno going just 16-30 with 240 yards but two interceptions and reigning Patriot League player of the week Scott managing a mere 43 yards on 21 carries.

The offense, marred by turnovers and missed opportunities, showed some major weaknesses against this solid Monmouth squad, revealing a tendency towards inconsistency that will need to be rectified.

Burke explained some of his team’s offensive struggles, saying “our offense will get better and more consistent as the year progresses. We predominantly start 8 underclassmen on offense and our senior captain center Jake Sulovski has been injured which has hurt us too. So our O-line is young, but they are talented and quick, so once we eliminate our mental mistakes, we have the potential to be very good on O, we just need to prove it.”

While the offense could have played better, it seems they are poised to come into their own. The same can not be said for the officials who played a major role in the game. Gallihugh conceded as much, asserting that “some of the calls were not legitimate, but we still had a chance to win the game without the calls going our way.” Burke seemed to agree with Gallihugh’s sentiments plainly stating that “Even though some calls, such as Bean’s unsportsmanlike conduct, were ticky tac, we can’t blame the refs ever, we can only blame ourselves for the loss.”

The Raiders hope to rebound next Saturday, opening up their Patriot League schedule against Georgetown at Andy Kerr Stadium at 1:00 pm. Hopefully “Homecoming” for the Raiders will be a success, as a good start in the Patriot League is an absolute must for this struggling Raiders squad.