Simply put, when you get six turnovers in a football game, you’re supposed to win. Friday night at Radford, Pulaski County recovered four Bobcat fumbles, intercepted a pass, and blocked a punt, and still didn’t win.
Radford had 12 total possessions in the game, and only half of them didn’t end with a turnover, yet it still won, 13-12. That’s an almost unheard of statistic in football. Radford did manage to kick two field goals, score a touchdown, and had a third field goal attempt on four of those six possessions without a turnover.
I can never remember in my 38 years of covering Pulaski County football, that’s over 400 games, such a statistic. Cougar head coach Todd Jones is a disappointed man today, and I don’t blame him. He and his staff have a ton of work to do.
So how do you get six turnovers and not win?
You don’t make any winning plays is a good place to start. Poor execution is another. Having difficulty at the line of scrimmage, and having a kicking game that had one field goal blocked, another wide left, an extra point kick blocked, and a two-point conversion attempt botched. Even with only 150 total yards of offense, the Cougar kicking game left nine points on the field, enough to win.
So there are a lot of areas for concern, but as often is the case, that first game tells you a lot. Things like Pulaski County has just one senior in its offensive line, only one part-time starter returning in the backfield, and even though it’s very early, Jones is desperate to find an identify for his offense, and some take charge players, that’s another area where youth comes into the picture.
The Cougar offense moved the ball easily against Bluefield in the final scrimmage before Friday’s season opener. The game against Radford didn’t start that way. it appeared the offense didn’t handle a lack of early success well, again, there’s a lot of youth and even in some area’s where there’s a senior on the field offensively, still little playing experience.
This is an aspect that likely did not get as much consideration in the pre-season as it should have during expectation discussions. You hear coaches talk about a sense of urgency all the time, and certainly that’s the attitude you want your players to have, but in this case, there may have to be a little patience too.
Other than the frustration of losing the season opener, losing it to your neighbor, and one that happens to be a Group A school, most of the problems are logical. Sometimes it just takes a game to find out where the concerns, and the shortcomings are. Were expectations too high? That’s likely, and also unfair to players and coaches.
But regardless, it’s not going to get any easier. In fact, it’s going to get a lot tougher. Just take a look at the next five opponents on the schedule and how they opened the season last Friday; Northside, this Friday’s home opener in Dobson Stadium, defeated always strong Amherst, 20-14, Patrick Henry hammered Hidden Vally, 42-14, Richlands throttled Gate City, 31-13, Magna Vista defeated Heritage of Lynchburg, 34-19, and Christiansburg flogged Floyd, 48-0.
There you have it. that’s the reality of playing the toughest Group AA schedule in the state, but it is what it is. The offense is going to have to find some fire from somebody, the blocking needs to improve, the kicking game needs to improve, some leadership needs to surface, and overall execution must get better. That’s a lot of stuff, but that’s reality.
Overcoming huge disappointment, and facing such a demanding schedule is asking a great deal from a young football team, but as Jones said following Friday night’s frustration, this team, particularly on offense, must find it’s identity, get physical, and leadership must step forward.
I like the Cougar defense. It was a ball-hawking unit last season, and that bunch will put a lick on you, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but I suggest with the upcoming five opponents, there will not be anymore six turnover games. It would certainly be nice, but that’s not realistic.
That means the offense must improve, and take advantage of its opportunities.
It’s going to be difficult, but it must happen. Young or not, as Jones says, this offense is going to have to grow up and do it in a hurry.
Pulaski County started just two seniors on offense last Friday, so it’s probably a little unfair to expect a huge improvement in a short period of time, but then, as we all know, life isn’t always fair.