For fans of a Bearcat football team that started out the season sporting a 0-2 record after suffering tough losses against Bridgewater College (7-23) and College of Wooster (21-27), winning the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship this season may seem like a distant dream. After all, the struggling Bearcats have only played three games thus far and will need to play another seven straight PAC conference games before the season ends and a champion is named. However, Head Coach Bob Colbert claims that, since he tries not to look beyond the next week’s game, the team’s only long term goals are to improve upon the previous year and win the PAC championship – something that Colbert says will “remain our goal every year that we play.”
If the Bearcats plan on living up to Colbert’s expectations, they will certainly have their work cut out for them. On one hand, Colbert believes that, from the information he’s received so far this season, any team might very well be capable of taking the PAC title. On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges facing the Bearcats will be their late October game against Thomas More College, the conference’s four time champion. According to Colbert, in an otherwise somewhat even conference, Thomas More presents a larger threat to the Bearcats than most other teams since, “until someone upsets or dethrones [them], they’re the ones that are the hardest to beat.” Yet during the first two games of the season, the Bearcats faced an even more crippling opponent than Thomas More – themselves.
A universal truth in football—whether it be on the high school, college, or professional level—is that turnovers can make or break the game for a team, and the Bearcats are the most recent evidence of this fact. In their two games against Bridgewater and College of Wooster, SVC gave up the ball six times thanks to five fumbles and one interception. While Colbert admits that the interception was simply “a good play by the defensive player” that he can live with, he called the fumbles “inexcusable” since “the team with the fewest turnovers is going to win.”
While their large amount of turnovers has caused problems for the Bearcat offense, Colbert also pinpointed a second problem that has been plaguing the team: the defense’s inability to stop big plays, which the squad defines as any play of fifteen or more yards. In addition to their massive turnover difference in the first two games, the Bearcats also hindered themselves by giving up ten big plays, five of which went the whole way to the end zone.
However, while the SVC team has certainly made its fair share of mistakes this season, Colbert also sees a great deal of potential in this year’s squad. Although the team lost almost thirty graduating seniors, who took a large portion of the team’s experience and leadership with them, a young group of freshman players that Colbert described as “some very good, skilled athletes” replaced them. This is not to say that the Bearcats will be without leadership on the field. In preparation for this season, the players chose four team captains, who Colbert believes will act as liaisons between the players and coaches in the event that any problems should arise. Among the captains are Carl Jeune, a senior wide receiver; Darius McGhee, a junior offensive tackle; Ricky Douglas, a senior wide receiver; and Jovaughn Johnson, a senior linebacker. Colbert claims that he expects each of these men to display “not necessarily vocal leadership, but leadership by example” both on and off the field.
The other source of strength that Colbert believes will help the team reach their goal of a PAC title is the defensive line. From what Colbert has seen so far this season, the defensive line will be one of the team’s biggest assets—mostly due to the experience and ability of the players on the line, as well as the sheer depth that is accessible to the team at that position. Colbert believes that there is great potential at the wide receiver position as well, but only if the players can stay healthy. When discussing the Bearcat wide receivers, Colbert admitted that the team has “suffered some injuries, so the depth isn’t quite there right now.”
In the end, the fate of the Saint Vincent Bearcat football team rests squarely on its own shoulders. As adamant as Colbert is about making a PAC title a priority every year, he also maintains that the team should look no further than one game ahead. Regarding the team’s younger talent developing throughout upcoming years, Colbert said, “I don’t plan beyond this year. I want this year to be good… We don’t look for down the road.” He added that “down the road is Waynesburg,” indicating that the Bearcats will be headed down the road to the PAC championship one step at a time, starting with their week three game against Waynesburg.