By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A good start would definitely help Bluefield College in its quest to win its first game since the football program was reinstated in 2012.
Anything would be better than last week.
“That was the craziest start I think I have ever seen,” said Bluefield College football coach Ordell Walker, after the Rams fell behind Kentucky Christian 21-0 just three minutes into a 38-7 loss last Saturday.
Two touchdowns came on fumble recoveries and another came on a punt return for a score, as the Rams dropped to 0-3 on the season.
Avoiding such mistakes was a focus for Bluefield this week in practice.
“Right now our focus is to eliminate the mistakes, the huge mistakes that put points on the board for the other team,” Walker said. “We have to start right there.”
Bluefield (0-3, 0-2) made the 5 1/2 trip to Lebanon, Tenn. on Friday for today’s Mid-South Conference contest with Cumberland (1-2, 1-0). Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.
While the Rams have allowed 151 points in three games — although 28 of last week’s 38 points can’t be blamed on the defense — the Bulldogs have surrendered 135 in a trio of contests, but did get on the board often in a 41-31 win last week over Belhaven.
One of those losses for Cumberland was to FCS foe Tennessee Tech, 63-7. The other loss was against Cumberlands, Ky., 41-10.
Cumberland simply ran over Belhaven, with Reed Gurchiek earning MSC Offensive Player of the Week honors by accounting for 324 yards of total offense for the Bulldogs. He had 189 yards on the ground and another 135 through the air.
Michael Nwokoji also ran for 191 yards for Cumberland, while Beau Baker earned MSC Special Teams honors after connecting on four field goals.
The Bulldogs ran for 414 yards on 77 plays and held the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
“They are pretty good, they are pretty big up front offensively,” Walker said. “They have a good running back, the quarterback is a dual threat so he is a guy that can throw and pass, very, very good running back, I keep saying that every week.
“We definitely have our hands full, the defense will have to play another outstanding game and keep us in the ball game, and offensively, the turnovers, we have no shot if we turn the ball over.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs have been vulnerable, which is good news for Bluefield, whose offense has scored 20 points in the last two weeks. Cumberland has been paced by Dren Johnson with 31 tackles.
“Offensively, we can’t turn the ball over,” Walker said. “Protecting the football is going to be huge so we will continue to work on that, continue to maybe simplify a little bit more to help us not think so much.
“Our coverage teams have to improve, our punt coverage, that will be a big, big emphasis and the ability to cover and help our defense out.”
The Rams’ leading rusher — backup quarterback Ashten Dixon — has 84 yards, starting signal-caller Josh Erby has thrown for 132 yards in three games, although Rodrell Smith (7 catches, 132 yards, 1 td) and Richard Johnson (6-170, 2 td) have shown the ability to make plays.
“Defensively, they are pretty good, but the one thing is they don’t pressure you the same way that Kentucky Christian will so I think there is a little bit more breathing room because they just have different styles,” Walker said.
Bluefield’s defense, which may have been helped by Kentucky Christian being down to their fourth string quarterback at the end of last week’s game, has been led by Ernest Moore with 23 tackles and Frank Brooks with a pair of interceptions.
“Certainly defensively we can’t get too caught up in what happened (last) Saturday, and continue to press to get better,” Walker said. “Getting to the ball is still a major point, we need more hats to the ball, especially their quarterback and their running back, they are pretty good.
“We don’t want to have to rely on one guy to make a tackle, that is going to be key.”
Special teams proved ineffective last week for Bluefield, at least early with the punt return for a score when the returner was never touched, as the Rams struggled with filling lanes and getting open to make tackles.
“Lanes are big, but the biggest thing is we haven’t been able to get off blocks so there is probably a little bit of effort that can be improved...,” Walker said. “Getting off blocks and then hustling are kind of the two emphasis we will have in practice this week.”
What Walker wants to see from his Rams is for all three segments — offense, defense and special teams — to come together at the right time.
Why not today?
“Those are three major deals we have to get done to have a shot,” he said.
— Contact Brian Woodson