The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

College Sports

September 17, 2012

Bill Bowman's college sports column: Here's what I think

Three weeks don’t make a football season, but it’s enough time to take a pulse.

That being said — and once again, with apologies to Peter King — here are some things I think I think after three weekends of college football

* I think Steve Briggs did something to make the football gods mad. Briggs, the long-time coach at Susquehanna, has one of his most talented rosters in a long time, probably more talented than the 2009 team that won the Liberty League title. Yet here are the Crusaders sitting at 1-2 overall and 0-2 in the Centennial Conference with gigantic question marks moving forward.

In case you missed it, the Crusaders lost first-string quarterback Mark Rosenbaum and back-up Casey Crotty to season-ending injuries in last week’s loss to Johns Hopkins.

On Saturday, third-stringer George Pachucy, making his first start after seeing his first collegiate action against Hopkins, was injured in the first quarter at Dickinson on Saturday and did not return. That forced fourth-stringer Taylor Kolmer into the spot and the Crusaders came up three points short in a 17-14 loss to Dickinson.

Oh, and more from those football gods: On the last play of the game Saturday, the Crusaders executed a hook-and-lateral to perfection and got their best player, Mike Ritter, the ball in open field and he split the Devils’ defense, but was tripped up near midfield on his way to the end zone.

How much does one team have to deal with?

* I think Bloomsburg found its quarterback for the next four years. Redshirt freshman Tim Kelly beat out three others in a heated battle that lasted from spring into fall camp and so far the move has paid off for the Huskies, who moved up to No. 11 in the Division II rankings.

With one the nation’s best running attacks — led by 1,000-yard backs Franklyn Quiteh and Eddie Mateo, as well as four returning starters on the offensive line — conventional wisdom was that Kelly needed to manage games and make a play here or there. He is doing more than that.

In Saturday’s PSAC East showdown with defending champion Kutztown, Kelly hit 16 of 28 passes for a career-high 246 yards and two scores. He did not throw an interception and connected with seven receivers. Through three games Kelly has thrown for 534 yards and four scores and has not thrown an interception in 71 attempts.

* I think Bucknell is going to fine. Sure the Bison are 1-1 after Saturday’s loss at Delaware, but they held one of the nation’s most explosive offenses to just 19 points (and one touchdown) in Saturday’s 19-3 loss at Delaware Stadium.

The Blue Hens, ranked in the top 15 in FCS, not only feature a roster full of scholarship players, but have a handful of FBS transfers in their lineup. Bucknell, which begins adding scholarship players to its roster with its next class, played about as even as could be expected, and the Bison won’t face many more teams this year as talented as the one they saw this past weekend.

* I think Bill O’Brien missed a chance Saturday to get a kid some much-needed confidence.

Now I’ve said from the day I heard him speak for the first time I thought the new Penn State coach has handled the brutal situation in Happy Valley about as well as one can. But Saturday he missed one.  

Late in the first half of Saturday’s game against Navy, the Nittany Lions had fourth-and-goal from the eight-yard line, already up 20-0. The way the PSU defense was controlling the line of scrimmage pretty much assured that Navy wasn’t coming back, although Penn State’s second-half performance might have you thinking otherwise.

O’Brien decided to go for it on fourth down, and when quarterback Matt McGloin missed a receiver in the back of the end zone the drive went for nothing. O’Brien had a shot to give much-maligned kicker Sam Ficken some confidence there by letting him boot the field goal in that spot.

Ficken, who missed four field goals and had a PAT blocked at Virginia, hit two of three PATs in the first half Saturday — both drawing huge ovations from the crowd — and he isn’t going to get many field goals easier than a 28-yarder right in the middle of the field. A make there and maybe he shakes out the cobwebs and goes on to have a good season.

O’Brien said he liked the play call he had and the receiver was open. But eventually Ficken’s going to have to make a big kick at some point, and getting the kid some confidence sooner rather than later would help.

Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college sports for The Daily Item. Email comments to bbowman@dailyitem.com. Follow him at twitter.com/williambbowman.

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