Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

September 5, 2012

Bluefield moves on after 77-9 loss

BLUEFIELD — If you have to lose a football game by 68 points, it might as well be in the school’s second game in 71 years.

Bluefield College experienced the growing pains that is part of a new program last Saturday, suffering a 77-9 loss to Georgetown, the fourth ranked NAIA team in the nation.

The task ahead is to move on, and get ready for the next one.

“You have to do that anyway, but with a game like that you definitely wipe it out,” Bluefield College head coach Mike Gravier said. “We didn't harp on that game.”

Beatings like that one are going to happen to all programs, and especially to newcomers to the football scene.

Georgetown has won three national championships and played for two others, but Tigers’ coach Bill Cronin recalled back in 1982 in Georgetown’s formative years when they were smashed 70-13 by Northwood, Mich.

Today, Georgetown is a powerhouse among NAIA programs, but it wasn’t always like that.

Gravier, who was an assistant on a new program at Malone University in Ohio, recalled beating Tri-State University of Indiana one season 70-0.

Two years later, that school — now a Division III school called Trine — reached the national semifinals.

“I told (the players) if we stick together there is no reason why we can't build and develop like that as well,” Gravier said.

Georgetown dominated the Rams all over the field, playing everyone on the roster, including four quarterbacks. Bluefield helped them some too, but Gravier admitted even after watching the film that the Tigers were simply too good on that afternoon.

We showed (the film)  to them and we took it for what it was, but we could have played a perfect game and still lost by five touchdowns,” Gravier said. “They are pretty good and when you combine that with the mistakes that we made ... I have been on the other side of it and it's no fun for anybody, it's really not.”

Especially for the losing side. Bluefield, which was competitive in a season-opening 42-28 loss to Pikeville two weeks ago, had a much different reaction against the Tigers, falling behind 42-7 at the break, and being out-gained 528-143.

“They were definitely probably embarrassed a little bit to get beat that bad,” Gravier said. “We just physically got manhandled and the thing we shared with them is that is where we want to be.

“That is the water mark that you are shooting for.”

The scary part for Georgetown opponents is that was their first game. Gravier figures — much like Virginia Tech felt after finishing up with Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense — it is best to get that one out of the way.

“You would rather play them, and get it over with,” he said. “Catch them early when they are not in full stride and now we can move forward.”

Up next in a season of firsts for the Rams (0-2) is a road trip to Kentucky Christian. The Knights (1-0) won its opener with an overtime upset of Lindsey Wilson two weeks ago, and then had last week to prepare for the Rams.

Bluefield will leave early Saturday morning and make the 3-hour drive to Grayson, Ky., home of the Knights.

“It is probably best to get the easy trip out of the way, the short one,” Gravier said. “Being on the road for the first time will again be a new experience for our guys.

“As coaches we have got some work to do, you don’t know how teams are going to react on the road. Every week there is a new experience.”

The Knights are in their fifth season with football, led by first year head coach Mike Furrey, who was a receiver in the NFL for eight years. His staff includes two other NFL veterans, Hank Poteat and Greg Blue. On Bluefield’s side of the field will be the Rams’ own NFL contingent, Mike Compton and Stacey Hairston.

Gravier understands why those guys want to stay in the game when their playing careers come to an end.

“It is just like anybody, you don't want to get away from the game,” Gravier said.  “You love it so much and if you are not playing than the next logical thing is to coach.”

Now that everyone in the Mid-South Conference has played a game, Bluefield was able to exchange film with the Knights.

That brought another challenge for Gravier in a year of firsts. Watching film of a football game isn’t about looking for big plays or exciting moments, but his club still has much to learn in that area too.

“The big thing is from my perspective is they don’t know how to watch film yet,” Gravier said. “That is why (defensive coordinator) Coach Hairston meets with them in the evening because he is teaching them to watch film, how to watch their opponent, the guys they are playing against.

“Some of them tend to watch it almost like a fan and look for the big hit, they are not picking anything up so it is part of educating them.”

Kentucky Christian has showed improvement, finishing 4-7 last season after going 0-11 and 1-9 the previous two years. The Knight have already upset Lindsey Wilson, and showed signs of progress in 2011.

“They have got things going in the right direction,” said Gravier, of Kentucky Christian, which has a new turf stadium that he describes as ‘beautiful.’ “When we look at the record from last year they played a lot of teams pretty tough. They only went 4-7, but their scores were very competitive.”

With a team almost exclusively comprised of freshmen and sophomores, Gravier has been looking for some leaders to step up, and it’s starting to happen as the Rams returned to practice on Tuesday.

“As we go through practice we are seeing some guys finally starting to step up as leaders,” Gravier said. “We have a way that we expect them to practice and they are now hearing those expectations from their teammates and not just the coaches and that is a great sign of our development.”

Bluefield football been well attended through two games, with the Rams drawing announced crowds of 4,017 and 2,047. Bluefield returns home next week to face Faulkner, which includes former University of Miami defensive back Ray-Ray Armstrong.

Gravier thinks the reaction about Rams’ football is still positive early in the season.

“It is still very positive, especially after last week people were commenting that our kids still played hard, they didn’t quit, it didn’t get into that chippiness that sometimes happens when you get way behind,” Gravier said. “We mentioned that to our guys at halftime that we weren’t going to get involved in that.

“The big thing is the reaction to our team on campus has still been very positive. The professors talk to me about what a joy some of those guys are to have in class and have on campus and we are not getting the daily report that so and so did this.

“When I was at Malone we used to get that all the time, that just shows that we have got great kids.”

Bluefield College will host a clinic for the Minutemen pee wee program at Glenwood School on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. Contact: bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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