Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When it comes to the unpredictability of the Dutchmen, it is what it is

All of Dutch Nation (snort) shares Bill Belichick's frustration at how the Homecoming game turned out for the Flying Dutchmen.

I’ll be the first to admit that my attentions weren’t focused entirely on the football game Saturday afternoon. This is nothing new: As someone with the world’s worst undiagnosed case of ADD, I can’t concentrate on anything for more than hey look my cat is licking herself and the Rockies are sending a pinch-hitter to the plate and I haven’t checked on my crappy-ass fantasy football team in a while and can you imagine the drugs I’d be on if I was born in 1993 instead of 1973?

Focus…focus…where was I? Oh yes. Saturday. The wife and I were in the stands hanging out and catching up with fellow Chronicle alum Jessie (this is my shameless attempt to see if she’s become a Loyal Reader now that she knows about the existence of this blog) and her boyfriend Mike, so the crushing nature of the Flying Dutchmen’s 16-14 Homecoming loss to Maine didn’t immediately register with us.

Oh sure, we knew the Dutchmen racked up a lot of yards and, with seven turnovers—including a record-tying five interceptions—and a missed chip-shot field goal, exhibited more self-destructive tendencies than your average underage co-ed at five cent beer night at Screwy Louie’s (that one’s for the diehards).

But the magnitude of the defeat couldn’t be fully comprehended in the stands. It had to be absorbed in black and white on the stat sheet. Because make no mistake: If you were among the 5,453 in attendance at Shuart Stadium Saturday (thanks for coming, see you same time next year!), you saw history.

It’ll take you a long time before you see a team rack up 533 yards and 32 first downs and get only two touchdowns out of it. The Dutchmen were just three shy of the single-game team record, set against Lehigh and Youngstown State in 1997. The Dutchmen also held on to the ball for nearly 34 minutes, ran 29 more plays from scrimmage than Maine and gained an average of 6.3 yards per play.

I’d love for someone better than me at math (line forms to the left) to devise a formula for determining how often a team would win when it is that offensively dominant while allowing only two touchdowns on defense. I bet it’s something like 99.87 percent of the time.

Speaking of the defense, Dave Cohen was ticked off at the unit for allowing the Black Bears to march 60 yards in just six plays to go up 6-0 less than three minutes into the game. That seems a little unfair, considering the defense, for the third straight week and the fifth time in six games, exceeded all expectations.

Disregarding two “drives” that consisted of kneel-downs at the end of the first half and the game, the Black Bears ran four or fewer plays in seven of their 10 possessions following their early score. Four of those drives began inside Hofstra territory after Dutchmen turnovers. In addition, the Dutchmen forced Maine to commit three turnovers, all of which occurred inside Hofstra territory.

Being mad at the defense after a game like this is like giving yourself an hour to make a two-hour trip and then blaming your tardiness on the construction on the Northern State that narrowed the road from three lanes to two for half a mile (not that I’ve ever done that). A team that has a defense that produces that type of performance plus an offense that racks up nearly five-and-a-half football fields worth of yardage should win in a rout.

Instead, as we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the 1994 football team (saw Carlos Garay rocking an old-school Hofstra windbreaker at the post-game alumni luncheon, wheee, free heroes!!), we are also reminded how rare it is to come across a team like that, and I’m not even referring to the concept of a non-scholarship team elbowing its way into the national championship picture.

I mean the almost unyielding focus displayed from the opening coin flip to the final snap, the ruthless killer instinct and the ability to maintain an us-against-the-world fury all season long. These Dutchmen managed to keep it going for three weeks. But the ’94 Dutchmen followed up the biggest win in program history, a 28-6 victory over New Hampshire, by throttling Central Connecticut 62-7.

Cohen is taking his share of the blame from the faithful for the Dutchmen’s performance Saturday, but I bet you there are hundreds of college coaches and about 31 NFL coaches wondering this morning why their teams are so unpredictable from week to week. To borrow a tired phrase from the one NFL coach whose team never seems to take a week off: It is what it is.

And what it is now is a long season, and once again not in the same way it appeared a week ago. On the bright side, though, very recent history suggests we’ll be a lot happier in five days.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

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