By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
If Bluefield College was looking for a program to emulate as it builds its own program to respectability, it wouldn’t hurt to watch how Georgetown does it.
“They are a very good program,” Bluefield College head coach Ordell Walker said. “They stay at the top the country, very talented and disciplined ... .”
Walker will find out for himself today when the Rams (0-8, 0-3) visit No. 16 Georgetown (4-3, 2-1) for a Mid-South Conference clash in Kentucky, about an hour south of Cincinnati.
Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
It is the first of three straight NAIA-ranked teams to finish the season for the Rams.
“We have to love the challenge, love the challenge of getting better, love the challenge of playing some of the top competition in the nation, love the challenge of seeing really where we are at,” Walker said.
“Our goal every week is to continue to improve so what a great test to see if we are able to do that against the best in the country and give yourself an opportunity.”
Georgetown, which has long been an NAIA powerhouse, having won three national championships, does much well, but Walker points out that success comes from retention and playing older guys, and the Tigers are disciplined and consistent all over the field.
“That is a thing that really stands out to me, it is great to have the talent, it is great to have the best talent, but you don’t need the best talent,” Walker said. “What you need are your kind of guys, and those are guys that stay in the program who work hard and is going to be very disciplined and is not going to make a lot of mistakes.”
Walker pointed out that the Rams have been quite the opposite, and that point was demonstrated in last week’s 44-18 loss at Southern Virginia in which Bluefield committed five costly turnovers.
“A murderous start, in our first three possessions offensively we turned the ball over, the defense played well at the beginning especially to keep the game close,” Walker said. “Then the end of the second quarter we just made some crucial mistakes that really busted the game open.
“We go from 10-point game to probably a 14 or 20-point game in a matter of a minute. You can’t turn the ball over, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win.”
Bluefield was hammered last season by Georgetown 77-9, in which the Tigers had several explosive plays and forced numerous turnovers from the Rams.
“Certainly our ability offensively not to turn the ball over is going to be key, and defensively, keep everything in front and tackle and force them to have to put together drives where they have to make multiple first downs,” Walker said.
“Anything can happen when you can keep the score close, but if you give up big plays and you are turning the ball over, great teams are going to be able to capitalize on that.”
Georgetown likes to put the ball in the air, led by versatile Neal Pawsat, who has thrown for 1,935 yards and 14 touchdowns. His targets include Ben Patenaude (20-379), Jesse Morrell (20-213) and Logan Crockett (19-364, 5 td), while Zach Sowder has run for 372 yards and six scores.
“They are not going to lead the country in passing or lead the country in rushing, but they are just efficient in both areas, although they generally lean toward the pass,” Walker said.
Bluefield, which has been led on defense by Frank Brooks (56 tackles, 3 interceptions), Frank Boatright (45 tkls, 4.5 for loss) and Ramir Hollis (41 tkls, 5.5 tfl) will try to slow down the Tigers, who have scored at least 31 points in five of their seven games.
Cordell Johns and Dakota Painter have also been playmakers for the Rams, who have allowed 45.1 points a contest.
“They are good at both and so you are going to have play the pass well and you have to play the run well,” Walker said, “but they are going to try to keep you off-balanced,”
Bluefield will counter with an offense that has struggled to settle on a quarterback. Josh Erby (381, 3 td) will start, but running signal-caller Armani Ford (31-211 rush) was able to give the Rams a spark in last week’s loss.
“(Armani) came off the bench in the second half and made a long touchdown and drove us to another touchdown,” Walker said. “He did a good job there.”
Marion Harris (472 yards, 3 td) and Adrian Pope (328, 4 td) will lug the pigskin for the Rams, as will fullbacks Sam Bennett (278, 3 td) and Clifton Bishop. Rodrell Smith (24-285, 2 td) and Richard Johnson (15-260, 3 td) are primary targets for whoever the signal-caller is.
Georgetown is paced on defense by Jaylen Bailey (48 tkls, 2 int) and Brock Messina (48 tkls, 13 tfl, 6 sacks).
“Defensively, they are tough, they don’t give up big plays, very athletic on the edges, the cornerbacks, safeties,” Walker said. “They are going to give you a lot of different looks so they are a very good football team.”
Walker would like to see the Rams hit some explosive plays, and both Smith and Johnson have shown the ability to get downfield and score.
“In terms of looking at their defense and how we can are going to attack it, we have to find some ways to manufacture some huge plays,” Walker said.
“We are going to have to run and pass, we can’t be one-dimensional and move the ball consistently against them.”
Not only does Georgetown has the pedigree as a program, but also the facilities, having recently served as the training camp home for the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I have never been there, I have seen it on film, and it is definitely top-notch and one of the premier small college programs and settings,” Walker said. “They are serious about their ball and that makes for a great atmosphere to go play and compete.”
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