October 20, 2011

Monmouth's defense falters

More news about: Monmouth
Lake Forest seemed to have its way offensively against Monmouth, including quarterback Pete Scaffidi, who was 36-for-48 passing for 360 yards.
Lake Forest athletics photo 

Coaches are normally happy after scoring 53 points in a football game, but Monmouth’s Steve Bell said he and his coaching staff weren’t “happy campers” when the Fighting Scots, leaders in the Midwest Conference, walked off the field with a 53-47 road victory over Lake Forest last Saturday.

The victory kept the Scots flying high at 6-1 overall and 6-0 in the Midwest Conference, but still managed to leave a bad taste in Bell’s mouth.

"We weren’t surprised by the way Lake Forest played offensively, but the way we played on defense was not up to the standards we hold,” Bell said this week, as Monmouth prepared to play Beloit (1-6, 1-5). “A win is a win and we’ll take them any way we can get them because wins are hard to come by. There is a certain level of expectation at Monmouth and that didn’t hold up to that expectation.”

One hundred-point games are not uncommon, but still rare enough to make a note of them. The two teams not only combined for the century mark on the scoreboard, but also 58 first downs, 1,115 yards in total offense, 784 of those yards through the air.

Preseason All-American Monmouth quarterback Alex Tanney completed 86.5 percent of his passes (32-of-37) for 405 yards and five touchdowns to go with two interceptions. Lake Forest quarterback Pete Scaffidi, though, was nearly as impressive, completing 75 percent of his passes (36-of-48) for 379 yards, four touchdowns with no interceptions. Lake Forest had two receivers that eclipsed the 100-yard mark – Al Mitchell, 16 catches for 121, and Kevin Davis, eight catches for 116.

What got Steve Bell going the most was that his team couldn’t get it going until the fourth quarter. Trailing 28-19 midway through the third quarter, the Fighting Scots scored just before the end of the period and then hit the gas with 27 fourth-quarter points.

“We scored 53 points, but we left 21 points on the field,” Bell said. “We had two turnovers and a missed field in the red zone that should have been a touchdown. We have to improve our red zone efficiency. We can’t be a shootout every game we play because somewhere down the line, one of those games will not come out in your favor.”

Monmouth needs to win its next two games to become one of the first teams to clinch a playoff spots. The Fighting Scots have already beaten second-place Illinois College and a loss by the Blueboys will speed up that process. Bell said his team will have to play much better than its 53-point performance to take the next step in the playoff.

Changing places

Replacing a coach at the end of the season is always difficult. The team is full of players that the old coach recruited and will likely be loyal to as the new coach starts to bring in his own recruiting class and install his own offensive and defensive philosophies. Imagine replacing a coach smack in the middle of the season.

That’s what happened to the Defiance Yellow Jackets, when longtime coach Robert Taylor resigned from his position after Defiance’s 23-13 win against Mount St. Joseph on Oct. 8. It was Defiance’s first win of the season. Granted, this season has not turned out the way the Yellow Jackets expected it to. After being picked to finish second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, Defiance opened the season 0-4 and 0-2 in the HCAC.

Assistant coach Nate Jensen was named interim head coach to replace Taylor, who at 38-47, left the program and the college’s all-time wins leader. The Yellow Jackets responded with a 26-10 victory over Earlham, their second straight win. Now at 2-2 in conference play, Defiance still has a chance to reach its predicted goal. Senior quarterback Rick Powell rushed for 136 yards and threw for another 165 in earning HCAC Player of the Week honors.

The story around the resignation remains a mystery. Athletic director Jenni Morrison and Jensen both declined comment, through sports information director Seth Mikel, when reached last week for comments on the challenges of taking a football program through a midseason coaching change.

So far, Defiance’s effort to move forward seems to be working in the win column.

T-minus one week

Defending Northern Athletic Conference champion Benedictine has a challenger for the crown and it is the Lakeland Muskies. After opening the season 0-3, the Muskies have reeled off three straight wins against NATHC foes to join the Eagles as the last two undefeated foes in league play.

Before both teams knock heads at Benedictine on Oct. 29, both teams have to deal with opponents on Saturday. Lakeland will have the tougher test at home on Saturday against Concordia, Ill. (3-2, 2-1 in NATHC). Benedictine will travel to face Maranatha Baptist (2-4, 0-3).

Game of the Week

No. 6 North Central (5-1, 3-0 CCIW) at No. 15 Illinois Wesleyan (6-0, 3-0): It’s yet another big game in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, featuring the typical ultimate contrast. North Central lights up the scoreboard, averaging 50 points a contest and has scored over 60 points three different times this season. Illinois Wesleyan is surrendering just 7.1 points per game and has two shutouts to its credit. The most points the Titans have given up was 19 in a victory over No. 16 Wheaton.

As appealing as that matchup is, what will probably determine the winner will be the Illinois Wesleyan offense against the North Central defense. The Titans fast start with early points against Wheaton, allowed them to let its defense dictate tempo. The way IWU plays on defense, that was a huge advantage.

The Titans will be up against a Cardinal defense that is giving up a stingy 5.6 points a game in CCIW play. The longer it takes Illinois Wesleyan to put points on the scoreboard, especially early, the more it plays in favor of the big-play North Central offense. This could be a fun game to watch and certainly could have Pool C playoff implications for the loser. North Central, with a season-opening loss to the Redlands, would likely find itself on the outside looking in with the loss, regardless of what it does against Wheaton. Illinois Wesleyan, with a competitive game, could very well still curry favor the NCAA if its losses. This could be interesting.

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