Mis­cues ham­per Golden Rams at Kutz­town

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

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.

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