Drake Football: The Running Kryptonite
The Drake Bulldogs have found themselves in a big hole this season, digging a little deeper with every interception thrown and every game lost. This story has not faltered much at all this season with the Bulldogs only two wins coming against the currently winless West Virginia Wesleyan College Bobcats and the equally 2-8 Butler University Bulldogs. Drake’s Oct. 23 game against Stetson was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues.
“Losing our last game has hopefully opened some people’s eyes to the fact that nothing is guaranteed,” said senior defensive lineman Kiernan Kohorst about the cancellation. “Practicing with that mentality along with a focus on how we can all improve individually will put us in the best position to be successful.”
While Drake has found ways to compete in several tough games, the blame for their 2-8 record stands primarily on themselves. A disappointing combination of injuries, late-game performances, and outright disastrous offensive showings have led to their current record.
A sizable portion of Drake’s ongoing struggles have stemmed from an inability to defend against the run game. This struggle continued well into Drake’s 21-14 loss against the University of St. Thomas on Saturday, Nov. 13.
St. Thomas ran for over 200 total yards and three touchdowns, averaging over five yards per carry between their two starting running backs.
On the flip side, Drake University has been elite in passing defense. Over the past three games, Drake has allowed just two passing touchdowns and an average below 200 passing yards.
This sharp contrast has led many to believe that Drake’s struggles fall on the shoulders of the defensive line and linebacking core, both of which have admitted to the team’s inability to defend the run.
Senior linebacker Declan Carr spoke of the inconsistent defensive performances, highlighting poor tackling as a primary instigator.
“We need to be better tacklers,” Carr said. “St. Thomas did a great job of falling forward on their runs and getting YAC (yards after contact). We had the right scheme, but we weren’t finishing plays like we normally do.”
The lack of offensive production by the Bulldogs has not helped the situation either, failing to break 14 points since late September. This lack of offensive production had held Drake University back from winning games in which their defense has played spectacularly, such as their 0-7 loss against the Marist Red Foxes the week prior.
“There are three phases to the game: offense, defense, and special teams,” Carr said. “Each phase is connected so any inconsistency by one phase affects the other phases. We let up too many points as a defense versus St. Thomas.”
No matter where Drake University has struggled throughout their season, they still have one chance to end the season on a high note.
The Bulldogs will face off against Davidson College this upcoming Saturday, a team that has been elite on the ground this season. The Bulldogs defense will have to completely flip the switch defensively this weekend with Davidson coming off of a game in which they ran for over 250 yards and four touchdowns as a team.
“Davidson has got an excellent rushing game and we must suppress that with physical tackling and assignment sound defense,” Carr said.
While their final game of the season will not have many implications on how the stat book paints the season, it could have a lasting effect on the young players hoping to make a more impressive run of the tables next time around. It will be one of Drake’s tougher matchups this season, and thus a win might give the Bulldogs hope for a competitive future.