Miscues hamper Golden Rams at Kutztown
The preseason favorite to successfully defend its 2015 PSAC Eastern Division football crown, West Chester just made the task of repeating unlikely, falling to Kutztown 20-14 on Saturday night.
KUTZTOWN >> The preseason favorites to successfully defend its 2015 PSAC Eastern Division football crown, West Chester just made the task of repeating that much more unlikely.
In a hail of offensive miscues, the Golden Rams fell 20-14 at Kutztown on a dreary, rainy Saturday evening at Andre Reed Stadium. To add injury to insult, WCU lost All-American lineman Doug Gilbert to a left leg injury along the way, and starting quarterback Andrew Derr’s confidence also took quite a beating.
“Honestly, I don’t know where we are at as a team,” said West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan. “I don’t know what to say to them, and I don’t know what is going to make us better right now. I am really frustrated because I see the same mistakes over and over that are costing us games.”
The slow starting Rams wound up rolling up 405 yards of total offense, and managed just two touchdowns, and one drive came on a very short field following Kutztown’s only big mistake. West Chester had more yards through the air and more on the ground, and yet it was the Golden Bears celebrating their first victory over the Rams since 2011. It was also the first for KU’s three-year head coach Jim Clements, who once coached on Zwaan’s staff at Widener.
“I respect Bill Zwaan. I learned a lot from him,” Clements said. “He gave me my start in coaching.
“So it feels good to beat West Chester. If we ever want to do something in our league, we are going to have to beat teams like West Chester, especially at home. Our guys did a nice job of making plays.”
Now 1-1 in the division (2-3 overall), the Rams will host Shippensburg (2-0, 4-1) next Saturday, and will likely have to do something they haven’t done this season in order to keep their fading championship hopes alive: play mistake-free football.
“We are making a ton of mistakes right now,” Zwaan acknowledged. “We have some young guys playing who are making mistakes, and it boy is it costing us.”
West Chester was a mere 1-for-3 on red zone scoring chances, thwarted time and time again by inopportune penalties, breakdowns in pass protection, and interceptions. Derr was picked off three more times on Saturday, upping his season total to 11.
“It sure is frustrating,” said Zwaan, when asked about Derr’s habit of throwing into double and triple coverage.
Lost amid the disappointment was the fact that WCU played well defensively, particularly in the second half, limiting Kutztown (2-0, 2-3) to just five first downs, 115 yards and zero points.
“The defense played well,” said running back Jerel Elder. “They kept us afloat in the second half.”
Trailing by 13 at the half, the Rams got a big break on a muffed punt, which was recovered by Elder’s younger brother, Jarey. And the offense cashed in on a nine-yard TD toss from Derr to Jim Hurley, who is back after missing several games with an injury.
But a series of mistakes the rest of the way prevented the offense from pulling any closer. First, Derr was intercepted (his second of the day), and then promising back-toback drives were sabotaged by sacks and penalties, and both ended with errant 45-yard field goal attempts by kicker Brendan Paulison.
“I just couldn’t believe how many sacks we gave up,” said Zwaan, who was told the total was four. “We were in max-protection for three of them.”
And then Derr made yet another ill-advised pass that was intercepted (number three) with just over seven minutes left. West Chester did get the ball back in the final minute of play, but – thanks to a holding call -- the Rams were back at their own 10yard line.
Somehow, Derr was able to scramble and find wideout Jordan Banks for a 50yard gain on fourth down with 16 seconds remaining. But on the final play, Derr was sacked.
“A couple penalties cost us, we threw some interceptions again, and we just didn’t finish off drives, which we have to do,” Zwaan said. “We normally do that. I don’t want to say that’s a real problem for us, but it was tonight.
“Kutztown did a great job game planning against us. They forced us to do some things offensively we are not comfortable with. And their best players on offense beat us.”
West Chester’s regrettable first half included a missed opportunity on the opening drive, and it was a harbinger of things to come. The Rams had it first and goal at the Kutztown four and failed to score, with Mike Class held to negative yards on fourth and goal from the one.
And then on its next possession, Derr was picked off by Jake Perry, which led to a 49-yard scoring strike by Kellen Williams, who turned WCU’s Ted Patton around like a pretzel. Williams then gained another 77 through the air on the Bears following series, including 39-yards on another TD.
The Rams got on the scoreboard thanks to a 40yard second quarter connection between Derr and Tyler Karpinski, but Kutztown came right back with a 12-play march that covered 75 yards.
“We came out in the second half knowing we had to do our job, to stop their offense, and that’s what we did,” said defensive tackle Josh Ganzelli. “I applaud our guys for working their tails off in the second half.”
Elder gained 80 of his 108 rushing yards in the second half, and Banks led the way with seven catches for 92 yards. But in the end, the only statistic that mattered was on the scoreboard.
“It’s just a matter of finishing,” Elder said. “We always say that one through 11 has to do their jobs, and we had too many plays when somebody didn’t do that, myself included. “We just had too many turnovers, missed blocks and missed assignments.”
Ganzelli added: “We have a lot of things to clean up, and we have to do it. The biggest problem is that we come out slow. If we started from the first whistle the way we come out in the second half, I don’t think we will have a problem with beating every single team we come across.”
NOTES >> Gilbert left the game early in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury and was on crutches after the game. “We don’t know yet how bad it is,” Zwaan said. … Starting linebacker Ralph Reeves missed his second game due to a stinger. “It’s still to be determined if he’s out for the season,” Zwaan said. “He certainly didn’t get good news from his MRI.” He was replaced in the lineup by sophomore Steven Denby. Junior Tyler Morrison would be Reeves backup, but the Springfield native is ineligible until cleared by the university after reportedly experiencing some legal problems during the offseason ... Junior Marcus Sydnor has been working himself into the rotation at wide receiver and he made the first start of his career at Kutztown.