Clevenger is a sophomore broadcast news major and can be reached at email@example.com
In traditional fashion, Drake’s first home football game was accompanied by a slew of freshmen who are not yet aware that people don’t actually go to Drake football games.
Hopefully they stick around.
Drake came out of the game looking sharp, moving methodically down the field and scoring on its first possession – a stark contrast to the Sept. 1 shut out at North Dakota.
Unfortunately, the lead didn’t stick. Drake put up another touchdown in the second quarter and narrowly escaped a regulation defeat with a strike from senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski to senior running back Nathan Paddock in the end zone with eight seconds on the clock to force overtime, but that was the entirety of regulation scoring for the Bulldogs.
On the other side of the ball, Grand View was never far from breaking the game open. Twice in the third quarter Grand View reached the Bulldog goal line. Drake blocked a field goal the first time and managed to cause a turnover during round two.
So what can we learn from last Saturday’s game?
First, let’s remember we were playing Grand View (read: this shouldn’t have been a close game). While Drake’s defense made two critical goal-line stops (although it sure looked like Grand View’s back crossed into the end zone on third down of that second stand) and caused two big fumbles – these were their shining moments. Looking at the game as a whole, there were a lot of missed tackles that resulted in a lot of critical yards. The line was nothing impressive, leaving a lot of holes for Grand View’s backs to hit. Additionally, the defense looked confused when trying to match Grand View’s audibles and ended up shuffling around when the play started. This no doubt led to some blown coverage. Granted, Grand View is still a talented squad. They were nationally ranked in the NAIA Top 25 just a few weeks ago.
On the offensive side the picture was a little brighter. While the scoreboard didn’t show it, Piatkowski threw some great passes and the receivers were there, but not at the same time. It seemed whenever Piatkowski hit the seam, his receivers either dropped the ball or weren’t ready for it, and when they were, the ball either sailed off their fingertips or over their heads. The running game was less than stellar, but the offensive line held on to give Piatkowski plenty of time in the pocket.
So how did things come together on the goal line and in the last minute and a half?
Drake’s men took the field to an uncustomary crowd. Not only was the home side nearly full, but there was a real student section, too. The students stood and cheered the entire game instead of passively observing it. This excitement of the opening of the team’s first home game fueled the Bulldogs’ drive down the field into the end zone.
But then things started to simmer down; the game started slowing down, the students started to take it easy and watch as the events played out and the two teams stood neck-and-neck in unexciting fashion for a while.
When Drake needed to score, however, or when Grand View was on the goal line, fervor once again swept the crowd and the band. Cheers and shouts drowned out any audibles the visitors tried to call, while quiet but invigorating encouragement gave the Bulldogs the advantage on offense. The home-field advantage has never been so apparent at a Drake football game.
So here’s the deal: I see the offense coming together very nicely as Piatkowski and his receivers get in sync, and the promise the line is showing on the passing plays will translate into the running game before we know it.
And while the defense wasn’t fantastic (we were playing Grand View), I think that it falls just as much on the students’ shoulders as it does the players’ to make that come together.
So let’s keep the attendance up, Bulldog fans, and push these guys as they head into the Pioneer Football League season!