Sunday, September 21, 2014

Putting last night's loss into perspective

During Gardner-Webb's first two games of the season, the Runnin' Bulldogs only scored ten points.

Against a team from the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, the Virginia-Lynchburg Dragons, GWU put up 34 points in a shutout.

Last night in Spangler Stadium, the Runnin' Bulldogs put up 43 points against our Wofford Terriers.

Despite a strong showing from the Terriers in the first half, particularly in the second quarter, Gardner-Webb used a dominant third quarter and most of the second half in its entirety to pull away from Wofford.

The Runnin' Bulldogs scored 22 unanswered points, with a drive in the final seconds of the second quarter, and several throughout the third quarter. Wofford tied up the game at 36, but along with some questionable penalty calls, Gardner-Webb drove 59 yards in 10 plays to take a final lead.

That last drive for Gardner-Webb, particularly what panned out inside the red zone has been subject to much speculation and study.

Wofford's defense held the Runnin' Bulldogs at first, and forced a third down and goal at the Terrier 5-yard line. Then however, the Terriers were penalized with pass interference when Lucas Beatty's throw fell incomplete. Gardner-Webb got their chance from the questionable penalty, soon punching it in to give the home squad the lead with about two minutes left to play in the game.

At least it didn't rain, like last season.
Courtesy Gardner-Webb Athletics YouTube Channel
The Terriers' last-gasp drive would stall around the Gardner-Webb 42-yard line, where Evan Jacks' short throw to Wade Francis was not enough to convert on fourth down, a situation reached by three straight incompletions launched by Jacks.

With that, Wofford fell to the Runnin' Bulldogs for the second-straight year.

While this may be a sign for rough times ahead, we have to remember that Gardner-Webb is not a complete stranger to success against SoCon opponents; also, Wofford was not the only conference team to disappoint against a non-conference team yesterday, as Furman fell to South Carolina State, and Charleston Southern notched a victory over The Citadel for the second-consecutive season.

Following the game, Mike Ayers said the following:
"You have to play in all three phases and if you don't, good teams beat you. We did some real good things on both sides of the ball, but we did not tackle well...We had some serious hits on them, but did not knock the ball loose and they made the plays. There were way too many penalties. Penalties continued drives and afforded them the ability to score. We had a lot of guys get nicked up tonight on defense. We are going to be young there but we are going to have to coach them up. You know that you had a shot, but it seems like in the second half we could not get them stopped. Credit goes to them, they executed better than we did when it came to crunch time."

While all this may be the case, there's nothing more we can do about this game, other than glean from the mistakes that were made and work on implementing solutions.

We have a final "tune-up" game, against Division II Virginia-Wise this upcoming Saturday. The contest serves as our final opportunity to get the bugs worked out before being thrust headlong into the SoCon slate.

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