Friday, September 04, 2015

Cincinnati Northwest 28 Troy 26

Well, this was certainly an experience. At various points throughout the night, I wasn’t sure I was going to see this game, or if it was even going to happen.

Let’s start with the pre-game.

I live in Columbus, so making it to Troy (or wherever the team is playing on a given night) by kickoff can be an adventure. Tonight, it was more like a nightmare. I get off work at 5:00, so I headed out the door as close to that as possible; luckily, a line of storms was rolling into Columbus right around the same time. That made traffic, often a sludgy mess at 5:00 anyway, a completely ridiculous situation. Traffic was slowed often to the point of stoppage; I scanned through the FM dial for a traffic report to see if there was an accident to blame, but there was not. Just volume and idiocy, I suppose. Just as it finally began to ease and I started to think I was home free, it slowed again—this time there was an accident. And shortly after that mess opened up, it was soon snagged by yet another accident.

Theoretically speaking, leaving Columbus at 5:00 should put me in the stands at Troy Memorial Stadium comfortable in time for the pregame alma mater and national anthem (my drive home after the game, for example, lasted one hour and 23 minutes). On this night, I considered myself lucky to be settling myself in just after 7:00, which is when the game was scheduled to kick off.

Of course, that’s not quite the way it went down, because 7:00 is also the same time the game officials saw the first flash of lightning. In Ohio, visible lightning mandates that the game be delayed by thirty minutes. Now, the first delay didn’t bother me at all—hell, these games shouldn’t kick off until 7:30 anyway. So, perfect. The thirty minutes elapsed and the teams came out to warm up, ready to start just a little late.

Then there was another flash of lightning.

The teams went back into the locker rooms. They put another thirty minutes on the clock. This time around there was more lightning, and each time the clock was reset…until it wasn’t. Eventually, they didn’t bother resetting the clock, and “30:00” just stayed on the scoreboard, seemingly just to let the remaining fans know—and there were a fair few—that the game was apparently never going to start.

Needless to say, I’m not in love with the lightning policy. I understand wanting to keep the kids and fans safe—that’s an admirable goal. But there really needs to be some leeway given to the officials, or some consultation with weather professionals, or something. Anyone with a weather app could see the storm system was moving southeast, and all the visible lightning was to the south. Nobody at the stadium was in any actual danger, and there was no real reason not to play the game on time, or maybe with a short delay after the first strike to determine the appropriate course of action.

At any rate, at some point word finally trickled through the crowd that they were going to wait until 10:00, and if they couldn’t start by then, the game would be postponed. I went under the stands in the meantime to get out of the light rain that was falling, while my wife (via text) urged me to blow off the game and drive back to Columbus. That wasn’t an option, and, as I told her later, it was to her benefit—after the drive and the delay, if I left and they played, I was going to be one unhappy camper.

And it was good that I stayed, because they did play. The game finally kicked off at 9:06, slightly more than two hours after its scheduled time. Had they kicked off on time (as they should/could have), the game would have been nearly over by then.

Now! As for the game itself…well, let me start by saying this. I’m incredibly enthusiastic about this coaching staff and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the short time they’ve had so far. It would be incredibly difficult not to be. That said, a certain share of the blame for this loss lies with them.

Here’s how it went down.

The Trojans kicked off to start the game, and Northwest promptly marched down the field and scored for a 7-0 lead. You could be excused at that point for believing we were in for a repeat of last year’s loss (which—full disclosure—I didn’t see). After that, though, the Trojan D stiffened up while the offense, like last week, found its legs. They scored touchdowns toward the end of both the first and second quarters (missing the extra point after the second) to take a 13-7 lead into halftime.

That was big, because the Trojans received to start the second half with a chance to increase their lead—which they did with another touchdown. Given the earlier missed extra point, this seemed to me like a great spot to go for two; they did not, and missed another kick, making the score 19-7 in favor of the Trojans.

After that touchdown, the Knights started to figure out the Trojan defense once again, driving down the field and putting themselves into scoring range. Troy showed a lot of fight, though, and managed to stop Northwest inside the fifteen and force a field goal attempt. When the Trojans then managed to block that field goal, things looked pretty good. Unfortunately, they fell on the ball rather than picking it up and running—it looked like an easy score, and at the very least would have given the Trojans really good field position.

Now here's where I have whatever issue I have with the coaching. When Troy's offense took the field at this point, they had a 19-7 lead and the third quarter was winding down. It was at this point that the offense inexplicably lined up in the I-formation for really the first time all year. I can only assume that the intent was to start trying to grind the ball out on the ground and keep the clock running. The problem I have is that they were running the ball just fine out of the shotgun read-option they had been running up to that point, so I totally don't understand the switch.

But, the I-formation it was; the Trojans went three and out, and that was pretty much that. The Knights scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to go ahead 28-19. Even when Troy reverted to their regular offense, they looked totally out of sorts and just couldn't get anything going. They didn't get their mojo back until the last drive of the game, when they were able to drive down the field and score one final touchdown with two seconds left on the clock, setting the final margin at 28-26.

This would have been a sweet, sweet win, and it's probably one the Trojans should have held onto. But hey, this is a game they lost 23-0 last year, and they've already scored more in two games than they did through seven (winless) games last year. So there's already been great progress, and there's plenty more to come; there's no sense in getting hung up on the "what might have been" of one game. Now Troy will look to come back from this one when they travel next week to take on the Vikings of Miamisburg (2-0).


Anonymous said...

Will you be attending all of Troy's games this year and tweeting the score real time? Wherever I am stationed (Bahrain currently) you are my line to Trojan football. Appreciate your candid insights....Fong has his head so far up the THS establishment it is ridiculous.

Jon Williams said...

Thanks! I'm not sure I'll be at all the games, but definitely most of them. And I can start tweeting the scores during the game.