By BRIAN WOODSON
The scoreboard hasn’t been kind to Bluefield College football through an 0-3 start to the season. Ordell Walker doesn’t want his Rams to pay it any attention, at least not until the game is over.
“We continue to preach the same things over and over and over,” said Walker, Bluefield’s first year head coach. “The scoreboard is irrelevant to this particular play and we just have to focus in on this particular play and continue to stay in that moment.
“You start paying attention to that scoreboard, good or bad, and it will affect how you play and that is going to cause problems.”
Of course, that is easier said than done. After all, the ultimate result of any football game is a win or a loss. He just wants his team to take it one play at a time.
“You can’t ignore (the scoreboard), we will pay attention to it when the clock hits zero, but in terms of just the life principle, you have to control what you can control,” Walker said. “The defense, they can’t control what happens on offense, their job is just to go out and play, and offensively you can never control what the defense does or the refs or anything like that.
“Play the play and live in that moment. That moment will be gone sooner than you know so even in a difficult situation, in football we are still getting an opportunity to play and coach. I guarantee you once March hits you are going to be wishing you were back out on this field, certainly our seniors will.”
Take away the opening three minutes and a pick-six in the second half and Bluefield would have dropped a 10-7 decision to Kentucky Christian in the home opener last Saturday at Mitchell Stadium.
Instead it was 38-7.
Bluefield fell behind 21-0 just over three minutes into the game on a pair of fumbles and a punt return for a touchdown. The Knights didn’t run an offensive play until two minutes late, but those 21 points were more than enough for Kentucky Christian.
“I had never seen that, but at the same time certainly the team could have folded really, really quickly with that,” Walker said. “First home game, certainly you have feelings of embarrassment, we got that bad start, but that is not who we are, that is not the kind of character they have.”
Walker was especially pleased with the defense, which allowed 57 and 56 points in the opening two losses to Point and Pikeville. In this case, the unit surrendered just 10 points against the Knights, who were, admittedly, down to their fourth string quarterback by the end of the game.
That bye week prior to the game certainly helped the Rams.
“Definite improvement, those two weeks really made a huge difference, it was just a completely different defense than our first two weeks,” Walker said. “Just guys knowing where they fit, being able to play fast, I think we tackled a lot better.
“Just overall, obviously you would like a shutout every week, but from where we were to the game that was played, they just played outstanding.”
Inside linebackers Cordell Johns and Ernest Moore were both recognized by Walker for their contributions, as was Harry Hollins, who played in his first game of the season. Frank Brooks also contributed, despite being questionable earlier in the week.
“(Hollins) did some good things and we could tell it was his first game and got some rust off, he made a sack in a timely situation so it was definitely an improvement having him,” Walker said. “Our two inside linebackers, they really played well and made a lot of plays and really fit the run very well so I was really pleased with having those two guys.
“Having Frank back was certainly huge. He is maybe our best player overall on the team, but certainly one of our top defensive players, even not being 100 percent, it was still great having him.”
As good as the defense played, the offense simply couldn’t move the ball.
“That was a historically bad game offensively, probably the worst start I have ever experienced and might be the worst start I have ever seen,” Walker said. “There weren’t a ton of positives coming out of there.
“The receivers did OK, we caught the ball well, there are a couple of plays we would love to have back....They played OK, but other than that there just wasn’t a lot of good out of that game offensively.”
Outside of a short pass from Cory Mabry that speedy Rodrell Smith turned into a 78-yard touchdown, the Rams were hampered by negative plays throughout the game.
“There wasn’t much holes to spare, there is improvement that needs to be made on all different levels, offensive backs, certainly there were times when holes were missed, dropped a pitch, a ball right in our hands, those kind of things will kill you,” Walker said. “There were times where are holes and the running backs are there and the QB made the wrong read and there are times when the running back is in the right spot and the QB is in the right spot and the offensive line doesn’t make holes.
“There is a lot of improvement and changes that need to happen with all three different positions, including the receivers. So much of what went wrong, the ball never even got to the receivers to even see if they were a factor, good or bad.”
Walker was pleased with an attendance of 716, numbers that could have been larger if not for rain throughout the day, and possibly West Virginia fans at home watching the Mountaineers get blanked by Maryland.
“Especially with the anticipated weather, that probably scared a lot of people away,” Walker said. “The crowd was lively, when I am out there coaching I usually don’t hear them, but I could hear them, it was great to have the cheerleaders and the band and the campus community really doing a good job of making that a great atmosphere and making football an important part of the campus climate.”
“We just have to continue getting better and put a good product on the field to complete the atmosphere.”
Bluefield returns to the road for consecutive weeks, beginning on Saturday, with a 5 1⁄2 hour trip waiting to visit Cumberland (1-2).
Located in Lebanon, Tenn, the Bulldogs are 1-2 on the season, but started the year ranked among the top 25 among NAIA schools in America.
The Rams, who lost to Cumberland 49-0 last year in Bluefield, have been preparing for the challenge ahead. Practice runs from 6-7:30 a.m. on Monday and Thursday, and 7-9 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Other than getting up in the morning, they don’t like that morning practice, but when they are out there they are in good spirits, and I think the coaches are doing a great job of continuing to push the message of stay with the process,” Walker said. “We try to coach them positively, ultimately from a positive perspective and that certainly helps with the guys.
“It is just principal. We have just got to stay in this moment of every day is an opportunity to get better and what happened in the past, we have to learn for it and let it go and don’t let it affect us today or tomorrow.”
Despite an 0-14 record over the last two seasons, Walker has been pleased with the attitude shown by the Rams, who continue to follow the process that will hopefully lead to success.
“When you have a team that can stay in that moment, then you will continue to get better and give yourself a better shot to actually pull a game out,” Walker said. “If you focus on just the scoreboard and disappointment and things like that, you probably won’t have the same energy that you need to actually improve to get out of the funk that you are in on the field.”
—Contact Brian Woodson