Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 21, 2012

First win proves elusive

Rams are Tennessee bound for Saturday’s game at Bethel

BLUEFIELD — Another first has arrived for the Bluefield College football team. An overnight stay.

The ‘first’ they really would like is a win.

Bluefield (0-4) will seek its first victory since 1941 on Saturday when the Rams play the Bethel Wildcats (2-1). Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Winning has been elusive for the Rams, who are in their first season of football in 71 years.

“I think that first victory is kind of like that first 4-minute mile,” Bluefield head coach Mike Gravier said. “Everybody tries and nobody makes it, but once the 4-minute mile was broken, there were guys after that that kept breaking it and I am kind of hoping that will be us.”

It won’t be easy. Bethel started the season as the 11th ranked team in NAIA, but have started slow at 1-2, winning for the first time last week 33-24 at Campbellsville.

Bluefield will spend much of today getting to McKenzie, Tenn., which is an eight or possibly even nine-hour drive that will begin at 1 p.m. for the Rams. It will be Bluefield’s second longest road trip of the season. The longest will be later in the campaign in what will be a two-day trip to Belhaven in Mississippi.  

Around 60 players will make the trip to Tennessee.

“We will get there, get them a snack and put them to bed,” Gravier said. “That is probably what we will end up doing on Friday.”

Bluefield dropped to 0-4 with a 52-10 loss to Faulkner last Saturday, although the Rams were leading 10-3 early in the second quarter. That   continued a disturbing trend for the Rams, who were within 14-7 of Kentucky Christian the week before, but fell 33-14.

“Against Faulkner we put together a really good first half and really against Kentucky Christian we were in the ball game in the first half as well,” Gravier said. “The second half, there is something that happens to us, I don’t know if they score and then everything snowballs or what.

“We’re changing some things as far as how we handle conditioning in practice and see if that is the issue.”

Bethel (1-2) started slow this season, falling 24-21 in overtime against Virginia-Wise and fell 31-7 to Marian College.

They were led to victory against Campbellsville behind the legs of 5-foot-5 senior back Cordarious Mann — who has 122 yards and has 3,050 for his career — and 5-10 freshman Raquis Hale, who added 121 yards on the ground. Will Masoud was 15-of-24 for 141 yards and a touchdown.

“We have seen their film, offensively they have two really good running backs and they really rely on them heavily, they are pretty tough,” Gravier said. “They definitely want to run the football, and their passing game is based on play-action.”

Defensively, the Wildcats were led against Chapmanville by Kyle Whiteman, who had nine tackles, while Bethel also picked off three passes.

“This week we are preparing for a lot of man coverage because they did show quite a bit of it in their last game so we have to be ready for that and their blitzes, their aggressiveness, we have had to take some time and work  on picking that stuff up,” Gravier said. “They don’t just come straight ahead, they are twisting and crossing and coming from different areas.

“Defensively, with their running game, we have to do some things to stop that.”

Greg Hampton led Bluefield last week, completing 10-of-17 passes for 127 yards to eight different receivers. Marion Harris ran for 75 yards, while Josh Wells added 54.

Hampton will start on Saturday, with Cory Mabry having seen some late action against Faulkner.

“Greg is a junior college kid so he has had a couple of years to play already and that is why I keep throwing him out there to let the other guys develop,” Gravier said.

Gravier wants to focus the offense around the talented backfield duo of Wells and Harris, but the Rams have been outscored 204-61 and have often had to put the ball in the air.

“We just have not been able to be consistent on offense, that first half against Faulkner I thought we ran the ball pretty well, but then we started out the second half 3-and-out two or three times in a row and now we are down three touchdowns,” Gravier said. “Now you have to start throwing it so you can’t stick with that game plan anymore. It has been tough to get those two guys going.

“Hopefully we can put something together and just continue to hand the ball off to those guys.”

Gravier has found a couple of dynamic receivers in Michael Nesmith and Rodrell Smith. He also used Cody Miller at center last week in place of an injured Mike Tufaro, who will be able to play on Saturday.

“(Michael) has really stepped up, we are really pleased with the way he is progressing,” Gravier said. “(Rodrell) came in as a running back and we moved him to receiver right away and he came in not knowing the position at all and he’s really improved a lot and really worked hard.

“He is one of the fastest guys on our team, that is why we moved him out there.”

Terrell Starkey and Frank Brooks — who had 14 tackles last week — are a pair of defensive players who have stood out recently to the Bluefield coaching staff.

“Terrell is a playmaker on defense, he needs to continue to work to stay within the scheme of things, but he is definitely dynamic defensive player for us,” Gravier said, who added about Brooks...“It was one of those games where you didn’t think he did a whole lot and then you watch the film and it’s like ‘holy cow, this kid is all over the place.’

“He was just in on a lot of tackles, making a lot of plays, getting blocked and reaching underneath and grabbing a guy by his legs and making a play.”

Special teams have not been special at times for Bluefield, but it’s not because of a lack of work.

“We kind of split it up (among the coaches), but we spend time on it every day,” Gravier said. “It isn’t necessarily a scheme issue, there have just been mental breakdowns, we have been rotating people in and out and try to get the right fit.”

While the first season for any program will be full of ups and downs, Gravier is pleased with one aspect of what he has seen so far.

“The thing I never question is our kids’ effort and as a coach that is important because eventually the other things will fall into place,” Gravier said. “Our kids still play hard, they are still competing until that last second ticks off that clock and that I am proud of.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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