Monday, September 28, 2009

Time to take the long view at QB

Lisa Simpson will not be nearly so happy after she reads we're touting Steve Probst as the starting QB instead of Cory Christopher.

So there I was in my recliner (actually, that’s where I am right now, too) Saturday night, listening to the Flying Dutchmen threaten to take an 11-point second quarter lead over Western Michigan and figuring I might have to pen the mother of all mea culpas today.

Remember when I said Hofstra should de-emphasize the football program? Never mind. After the rout of Western Michigan Saturday, it’s Big East or bust! Upgrade to 85 scholarships immediately or cancel my Pride Club membership!

Alas, a touchdown that would have given the Dutchmen that 11-point lead was called back due to penalty and Western Michigan scored two quick touchdowns before the half to take the lead for good on its way to a closer-than-it-appeared 24-10 victory.

There’s some positives to be gleaned from remaining competitive against a I-A team that made a bowl game last year (albeit something along the lines of the Fargo Bluebonnet Cherry Bowl presented by, especially in the aftermath of last week’s thoroughly demoralizing 47-0 loss to Richmond.

To bounce back and throw quite a scare into Western Michigan speaks well for the players as well as the coaches. There is no shame in losing to a I-A team, and these kinds of near-misses serve as a reminder of just how handy those extra 22 scholarship players are. It’s one thing to outplay a I-A team for one half, quite another to overcome the depth disadvantage for 60 minutes.

But it was tough not to wonder what if, as well, and to think this was a moral victory that could have been so much more. The Dutchmen defense played an inspired game as it produced two goal-line stands in the first half and forced and recovered two fumbles on consecutive possessions in the third quarter with Western Michigan up 17-10. But a methodical offense could not capitalize as the Dutchmen averaged just 4.1 yards per play in the second half and produced no points despite twice driving inside the Broncos’ 35-yard-line twice.

Some credit, of course, must go to the Western Michigan defense, but a piecemeal offense has been a pretty consistent problem the last two years for the Dutchmen, who ranked ninth in the CAA last season with an average of 4.8 yards per play. They recorded a lower average gain per play in six of their eight losses.

The average gain per play is a tick higher this year (4.9 yards per play), but the total is inflated by a 467-yard outburst in the 40-24 win over Bryant. Remove that game from the equation and the Dutchmen are averaging 4.2 yards per play.

All of which makes me wonder how much longer Cory Christopher will be the starting QB. Christopher is already sort of splitting time with sophomore Steve Probst, who took 11 snaps Saturday, and he appeared on his way to a similar time share with Joe Sidaris before Sidaris suffered a knee injury that could sideline him until November.

I usually subscribe to the theory that teams that play two quarterbacks don’t have one. And since this is not shaping up as a playoff-bound season for the Dutchmen, might it be better for the long-term view to ditch the rotation and go with Probst full-time?

Trying to ride out last season with Christopher made a lot of sense with the Dutchmen in obvious rebuilding mode and Cohen reluctant to burn a redshirt season for either Probst or his fellow freshman Joe Sidaris. The possibility of a redshirt sophomore season is obviously gone now for Probst.

And while Christopher is an exciting player to watch, his clock management skills Saturday—when he had to burn two timeouts with the clock stopped in the second half—was Herm Edwards-esque and he’s been the starting signal-caller for 11 of the last 16 games. His ceiling is pretty defined, while Probst remains an unknown quantity.

Going with Probst all night Saturday probably wouldn’t have a what if near-miss into the CAA’s fifth victory against a I-A school this year. But better for the Dutchmen to make the change now instead of wondering next season how much further along they might be if they had a more experienced starting player behind center.

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