Football | Notebook: Old ghosts, new opportunities
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012 08:09
About halfway through the football team’s practice under the lights at Bello Field on Wednesday, head coach Jay Civetti demanded silence.
“Are you just going through the motions?” he asked the 76 guys scattered around him. “I’ll tell you what’ll happen on Saturday if you don’t want to work.”
Then, he reminded his players what happened a year ago against their upcoming opponent, Bates.
“You got humiliated,” he said. “Have some pride.”
The rest of the practice was crisp, as the Jumbos continued their meticulous preparation for a Bobcats squad that defeated them 28-9 in Lewiston, Maine last season.
While the Jumbos don’t like to dwell on the past, Civetti knows the occasional reminder can be a powerful motivator.
“There are certain things that you’ve got to be able to carry with you in order to be able to go forward,” he said. “I’m not trying to wake up old ghosts. I’m just trying to bring to the forefront, guess what, you can’t hold [Bates] lightly, because this team took it to you. You have an opportunity to earn back a little pride that was taken away from you.”
Historically, Tufts has had the upper hand in the matchup: From 1986 to 2009, the Jumbos defeated the Bobcats 24 straight times. But Bates has now won the last two meetings between the teams, and, despite being 31 years removed from their last winning season, the Bobcats are not to be underestimated.
“Bates is a good team,” senior defensive back Sam Diss said. “They have a great offense, great defense. We’re not looking past anyone, nor would we ever.”
Still, tomorrow’s game will present the Jumbos with a golden opportunity to snap their 16-game losing streak in front of a Homecoming crowd.
“It would mean a lot [to win],” Diss said. “With players coming back who were on teams that weren’t so successful in the past, I think it would be a little more special if we did that in front of them. But if it rains and no one’s there, we’re going to be just as happy,” Diss said.
For now, though, the Jumbos are not getting ahead of themselves.
“You look forward to [winning], but you really can’t plan for it,” senior defensive back Tommy Castle said. “You’ve got to execute all the steps that it takes to get there, and it’s not over until it hits zero at the end of the fourth quarter.”
Limiting the option
Bates’ recent victories against Tufts came in the first two years of its unconventional shotgun triple-option offense, which gave the Jumbos fits in 2011.
“[Offensive coordinator Daryle] Weiss does an awesome job with that, really has a good handle on it,” Civetti said. “I think it causes a lot of problems for people. And the thing for [Bates] is, they’ve got great kids to execute it.”
The Bobcats return the centerpieces of the system: senior quarterback Trevor Smith and senior captain tailback Patrick George, a duo which factored in all four touchdowns and combined for 167 of Bates’ 218 rushing yards against Tufts last year.
With most of their offensive line returning as well, the Bobcats are now in even better position to run the option effectively.
In practice this week, the Jumbos tried to ensure they will be better prepared for the triple-option this time around.
“It’s an offense that you’ve got to, defensively, be very disciplined with,” Civetti said. “You’ve got to stick with your assignments, or they’ll gash you.”
Exploiting the 3-5-3
Offense is not the only area where Bates is a bit quirky — head coach Mark Harriman also employs a 3-5-3 defense, which focuses heavily on stopping the run and limited the Jumbos to 18 rushing yards in last year’s contest.
“It’s a much different look than we’ve seen from any other team,” senior center Sam Stone said. “This week is something special. It’s a chance to come out with a new slate, new calls, some new plays, new preparation.”
On the flip side, this should give senior quarterback John Dodds -— who is in for injured sophomore Jack Doll — a chance to air it out to his receivers.
“With Dodds back there, I think we’re going to be in pretty good shape to pick them apart in ways that we’re not usually able to pick apart teams,” Stone said. “I think that it’s a good opportunity for our wide receivers to put on a show, and I think Dodds is going to take advantage of that.”