Friday, October 7, 2016

FB Notebook: Leopards running game ... Rams coach ... Eric Mitchell

How many time have you heard Lafayette football Coach Frank Tavani talk about absolute need to be able to run the football?

Sometimes it seems like every week. He said it again after the loss to Holy Cross, in which the Leopards threw 46 passes, completing 33 for 280 yards and rushed 23 times for 93 yards.

“Now, do you need 300 yards a game rushing?” he asked rhetorically. “No, but 150 anyway. And that’s just starting. You need to have that element. The defense has to be kept on their toes. Now they know what we’re doing. You saw at the end of the game when they know we have to throw, they just pin their ears back. And we have some guys up front who are first-year starters and they’re struggling.”

Tavani’s inference that a running attack that gave his team 150 yards a game would be good enough for him, got me thinking. When was the last time a Lafayette team averaged 150 yards per game?

Year    Ave. yds/rush            Ave. yds/game           W-L
2016                2.0                   64.6                1-4
2015                2.5                   72.3                 1-10
2014                3.9                   144.6               5-6
2013                3.4                   118.6                5-7*
2012                3.5                   122.3                5-6
2011                 3.0                   100.5               4-7     
2010                3.1                    109.6               2-9
2009               3.7                   129.7               8-3
2008               4.2                   175.2                7-4
2007                4.1                   173.4               7-4
2006               4.6                   164.8               6-6*
2005                3.7                   150.9               8-4*
2004               4.4                   212.8               8-4*
2003                4.0                   150.8               5-6
2002                3.6                   150.4               7-5
2001                4.0                   130.7               2-8
2000               2.6                   93.7                 2-9
* -- League champ, I-AA/FCS playoffs.

From what I can tell, Lafayette has had only two men with the title of offensive line coach in Coach Tavani’s tenure. Bob Heffner got it in 2001, and when he left to coach at Northwestern University, Stan Clayton was picked as his successor in 2009.

The Leopards have had six individual 1,000-yard rushing seasons – three by Joe McCourt, two by Ross Scheuerman and one by Jonathan Hurt. Three of those 1,000-yard seasons ended with a Patriot League title (McCourt in 2004, Hurt in 2006 and Scheuerman in 2013).

Just something to think about.

QUOTABLE ANDREW BREINER – The Fordham head coach, who has lost of Lehigh Valley ties and still makes sure he stops for a Jimmy’s Hot Dog whenever he’s in the area, spoke with the L.V. media via telephone on Tuesday.

On facing Blake Searfoss instead of Drew Reed at quarterback: “They threw it a little more against Holy Cross when Blake was in the game. Maybe coach Fein felt that’s what Blake’s strength was. Those guys are very well coached. We watch them go through progressions; they don’t just take a three-step drop and play like robots. Our plan every week is to cause the quarterbacks to hold the football and maybe not give them that first progression.”

On 10 fumble recoveries by the Rams’ defense: “We preach creating turnovers. When we have a guy held up, we’re going to rip at the ball. The other amazing statistic is the number of fumbles (14) and recovered fumbles. We’ve done a great job of getting on those balls. Those are precious opportunities when the ball hits the ground  like that … recognizing it and getting on it. There’s a little bit of luck in it. It’s a football, so you never know how it’s going to bounce, but so far, it’s bounced towards the Rams and those have been big to help us win or compete in games.”

On the transition from offensive coordinator to head coach:I think it’s as seamless as it can be. It’s a big jump, but the continuity factor, with me being promoted and the vast majority of the coaches staying the same … while there is a new head coach, we know the roster, the student-athletes know us and they saw that philosophically, there wasn’t much that was going to change. I believe in what we did to turn this program around from a 1-10 team to a top-25 team, so the foundation wasn’t going to change.”

MEET ERIC MITCHELL – The freshman from Martinsburg, W.Va., has earned the starting job at cornerback, wearing the number of and succeeding Matt Smalley. He said that in his four years at Martinsburg High, the football team lost only “a handful” of games. Actually, Martinsburg won three straight state titles and lost in the semifinals of states in the other year. While he’s already experienced that number of college losses, he said of the transition, “It’s not so tough, it’s just like motivation. We know how good we are. We haven’t played a full four quarters yet. Once we do that, it’s going to be hard team to beat.” Mitchell, who battled with Liberty High grad Izaiah Avent for the starting spot, got his opportunity when Avent was hurt in the second game of the year. It appears it’s now going to be hard for anyone to get the job away from him. He had four tackles in his first start against Princeton and followed that with six against Villanova and seven against Holy Cross.

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