Football Falls To National Power

Mike Nanna

Facing off against the 10 ranked University of Massachusetts Minutemen, the Colgate Raider football team fell 28-7 at McGuirk Stadium Saturday afternoon. The first game of the Colgate Raider football team’s 2006 season gave an extremely telling glimpse into what challenges the team will meet and what kind of potential they have for the future.

The first quarter was heavily one-sided as the Minutemen needed only their first two possessions to jump out to a 14-0 lead. The Minutemen scored first at the 6:04 mark of the first quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Liam Coen to tailback Steve Baylark, with kicker Chris Koepplin making the point after attempt. Coen connected again at the 1:19 mark with wide receiver Brandon London for a four-yard passing strike. Featuring a number of new defensive starters, the Raider inexperience was showing.

“I think once we get some more playing time for our new guys we should be fine” Coach Dick Biddle said. “We need experience after losing a lot of players off of last year’s defense and inserting some younger players this season. We’ve got a lot of speed on defense though which should be a good thing for us.”

While their lack of experience showed in the first quarter, the next three quarters were a preview of the kind of potential this team brings to the table. Faced with a two touchdown deficit after a quarter in which they were held without a first down, the Raiders responded with tenacity. Holding the Minutemen scoreless for the entire second quarter, the Raider defense forced two punts and didn’t allow so much as a first down, giving themselves a chance heading into halftime. The offense showed signs of life as well, driving deep into UMass territory before three consecutive losses of yards killed an otherwise solid drive.

Biddle remarked “After the first quarter I thought a lot of our younger guys settled down and played better. I was happy with the defense’s performance after the first quarter and our young players played well which was encouraging.”

The third quarter featured more strong defensive play, with interceptions by Raider cornerback Cody Williams and free safety Andrew Moore. Williams’ 33-yard interception return gave the offense outstanding field position at the UMass eight-yard line but the Raiders could not convert. After a string of bad plays took the Raiders back to the UMass 26-yard line, kicker Jakob Stein had his 42 yard field goal attempt blocked and recovered by the Minutemen.

The defense continued to play hard but could not overcome the offense’s mistakes. Raider quarterback Mike Saraceno (15-23, 104 yards) was intercepted at Colgate’s own 9-yard line, giving the Minutemen extremely good field position. UMass did not waste it, immediately taking advantage with a Steve Baylark touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-0.

Coach Biddle stayed positive about his offensive unit.

“I thought we were inconsistent. UMass has one of the best defenses in the nation so I think we did ok against them, we just need to get the ball to Jordan more often.”

Indeed, sophomore running back Jordan Scott was one of the bright spots on offense, starting the fourth quarter off with a twenty-five yard touchdown run. Scott finished with 21 carries for a respectable 86 yards, but getting him the ball was a bit of an issue.

“I just think that getting down early in the game kind of changed our gameplan from running the ball and trying to control the clock to more of a passing attack” Scott said.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, their kick coverage quickly gave the Minutemen excellent field position once again after Scott’s touchdown, allowing a 65 yard kickoff return to Matt Lawrence, who scored on a 2-yard run 6 plays later to end the scoring at 28-7. The Minutemen were led by quarterback Coen who was 11-19 for 117 yards and two touchdowns and by the all-around play of running back Steve Baylark who rushed for 85 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, while also adding a touchdown receiving.

Colgate was led by Scott and receivers Erik Burke, Wayne Moten and Kenny Parker (four receptions apiece) on offense, while Williams, Moore and linebackers Mike Gallihugh (13 tackles) and David Wesley (10 tackles) paced the defense. Senior Strong Safety Geoff Bean also contributed a 40-yard kickoff return.

When asked which areas needed improvement, Coach Biddle responded “the kicking game needs to improve. Specifically, we need to work on some of the little things in kick coverage and basically just get the kinks out. The main thing though is we need to get the ball to Jordan Scott.”

Overall, Biddle’s mood seemed upbeat and excited about his young team’s chances this year, especially about his sophomore running back Scott.

“He is a special player, I really believe that, and I think that we need to get him the ball 35-40 times a game, because he’s the type of guy that gets better as the game goes along.”

Scott had this to say about how his team would respond to their first loss:

“When you lose a tough fight you get in your mind that you don’t want to get beat up like that anymore. We lost a tough game last week, and we lost an even tougher game against Dartmouth last year, and I think we’ll respond to those losses well heading into the rest of the season.”

The Raiders have a bye this week, but will return home to Andy Kerr Stadium to battle Dartmouth on Saturday, September 16 at 1:00 p.m.