Frank Tavani has made a big deal this year about the E.A.A.T. slogan adopted by his football team. Effort. Attitude. Accountability. Toughness.
Well, on Tuesday, he practiced what he’s been preaching.
The head coach took full accountability for the no-call in Saturday night’s game at Princeton, when his Leopards scored a fourth-touchdown to pull within four points at 35-31.
It’s a pretty good bet that almost everyone in Princeton Stadium was sure the Leopards would go for a two-point conversion to pull within three, hoping to then get a defensive stop and perhaps have another opportunity to drive for either a winning touchdown or a tying field goal.
The call for the two-point attempt never was given. Lafayette wound up losing 35-31.
“That was my call," Tavani said Tuesday when he was questioned about the decision during the weekly football luncheon. “I was looking, scrambling for the chart. I looked at it and I was going to call a timeout. That was my bad. [The two-point try was] exactly what should have been done in that situation. We didn’t get the ball back, unfortunately. Get the ball back and kick a field goal to tie is the way to go, but also the other side is if you don’t get the two-point conversion. [Trying for two] was the right decision and that’s on me, so …” He said he did have a chart – “there are a lot of things we use analytically up there, and that’s just one of those things. I had confidence we were going to get six. Believe as you wish. Bring the criticism. I thrive on it.”
I’m sure he’s gotten more than his fair share of criticism in the aftermath of the game. As it turned out, Lafayette never got the ball again because Princeton controlled the ball for the last 5:22 to escape by four.
Did I think he should have tried for two? That’s why I asked about it minutes after the game.
Did any of his coaches lobby for a two-point try? I can’t answer that.
Is it worth beating him silly for his decision? Not to me. If Lafayette had gotten the ball back and had a chance to score at the end of the game, the mistake would have been magnified.
But I’ll bet we could find lots of other mistakes by players and coaches that might have been just as costly, but weren’t as obvious.
None of us could beat on him as much as he has probably beat himself more than a couple of times.
The Leopards have a 24-hour rule about dealing with disappointment. You let it go. I’m letting it go.
As it turns out, the game officials also blew one big time, too. But it came on the third play of the game and easily got lost in all the other things that took place on Saturday night.
A Princeton third-and-13 running play that came up short, but after the play, officials threw a flag. Personal foul, #33, Lafayette. 15 yards. First down, Princeton. So, instead of a three-and-out by the Lafayette defense, the Tigers used the second chance to drive for a touchdown.
Tavani saw immediately that it was an incorrect call. Brendan Bryant had been shoved after the play by a player and tumbled into another Princeton player. Officials missed the shove, but saw Bryant fall. I don’t know if that call would have been subject to review, but there was no instant replay, so it was on to the next play.
Tavani told the officials they weren’t going to like what they saw on the film and when they said it they’d have to apologize. They did see it, and Tavani and Bryant got apologies on Monday. Unfortunately, the apologies change nothing.
Maybe plays like the two-point try and the wrongly-called penalty are the kind of things that go against teams that are striving mightily to reclaim their place among the winners. Lafayette can easily shake off the mistakes of Saturday night. Maybe even take it out on Villanova.
INJURY UPDATE – Matt Rothrock is going to have his foot examined again this week, but Coach Tavani said on Tuesday, “There didn’t seem to be much change. Knowing that type of injury all too well, it’s not looking great. Matt is committed no matter what that he is coming back here next year and playing his medical redshirt if that can be the way things go.” Tavani also said that while running back DeSean Brown is getting better, he’s not yet 100 percent. With a bunch of Patriot League games coming up, it doesn’t look like Brown will be back in the lineup for the Villanova game – and that makes perfect sense. Offensive tackle Nick Zataveski was able to play every down last week, which was a welcome sight for Tavani and o-line coach Stan Clayton. Freshman o-lineman Jake Marotti is also getting better, and if he’s able to return soon, it will be a huge lift in the backup department.
LOCAL CONNECTIONS – Villanova Coach Andy Talley, speaking of Liberty grad starting offensive guard for the Wildcats, Louie Csaszar, said, “Louie is terrific. He’s playing with a broken bone in his foot, so he’s in a boot right up until Thursday. He’s a very tough guy. Just all football player. We’re pleased to have him. It’s a shame he’s got to labor with that broken toe. What could be worse for a lineman than to have a broken toe when you’re 300 pounds? He’s done well and played well. I wish he were healthier. Former Whitehall High head coach Tony Trisciani is recruiting coordinator and secondary coach for the Wildcats. “We’re happy to have Tony; he’s a class act and a terrific secondary coach. He’s done a great job with recruiting, too.” Two former Lafayette players, Mark Powell and Shane Brady are offensive and defensive assistant coaches of the Wildcats, respectively.