Bearcat Football hopes to reach turning point

by Zach Noble, Staff Writer

Bearcat football is under way, and the team has suffered two close losses.  SVC lost 14-19 to Bridgewater College on September 4th, and lost 23-28 against FDU a week later. Still, the team remains guardedly optimistic about the season as the Homecoming Weekend game against Thiel College approaches.

Coach Bob Colbert came to SVC in 2006 to rebuild the football program that had been discontinued after the 1962 season. Now entering their fourth season since the return of football, the Bearcats have little to show for their efforts. The team lost every game in 2007 and 2009, and managed only a single win, beating Gallaudet 23-22, in 2008.

Coach Colbert spoke candidly about the team’s struggle. “We were playing with a lot of young players the first couple years,” said Colbert. “The first couple years we recruited quantity. We wanted a lot of bodies. We’re beyond that stage, and now we’ve become more selective.” Colbert noted that any new football program would face difficulties, saying, “Does it come with the territory, losing? First couple years, yes. Now is the time to get beyond that and start winning ballgames.”

The 2010 season is off to a rocky start, but Coach Colbert mentioned some specific reasons he has hope that the Bearcats can turn the season around.

“Last year, our turnover margin was minus 24, what would have been last in the country,” said Colbert. “Right now, we’re even. We didn’t have any turnovers in our first ballgame, second ballgame we had three. That’s a major improvement.” Colbert also spoke of the team’s offense, saying, “The strong point of our offensive team right now is the receivers.”

The Bearcats are currently operating on a quarterback rotation between Jake Smith and Aaron Smetanka. “Each one [Smith and Smetanka] brings a little something different to the game,” said Colbert.

Smetanka, a red-shirt junior and Management major, agreed that the rotation “brings a little something different,” but was somewhat critical of the strategy. “Me and [Jake Smith] both thinks it takes a little away from our rhythm,” said Smetanka. “We have two different styles.  He’s more of an option running type quarterback and I’m more of a passing quarterback.”

Nevertheless, Smetanka spoke positively of the team as a whole. “There’s a real good chemistry,” said Smetanka. “I heard from the coaches that it’s completely different from the past couple years.” Smetanka transferred from Robert Morris University this year in order to get more playing time on the football field, and he has already proven himself a valuable asset, throwing one touchdown in the game against Bridgewater and two touchdowns against FDU. “Hopefully we got everything out of the way with those first two games,” said Smetanka, “and we can pull it together for the rest of the season.”

Defensive end and team captain Jeff Graham, a senior Accounting major, has been with SVC football for the past four years. He had no illusions when he started playing, saying, “The group that I came in with, we knew we’d have some growing pains being a new program.” Graham spoke of the past two games disappointedly, saying, “Sure they’ve been close, but they’re still losses. That’s the bottom line.”

Graham did, however, express hope for the Homecoming Weekend game against Thiel College, SVC’s first President’s Athletic Conference game of the season. “[Thiel] lost a lot of their seniors last year, they’re playing a lot of new guys,” said Graham. “We’re the more experienced team now.”

Coach Colbert was also hopeful, stressing the similarities between Thiel and SVC. “Thiel has always been competitive with us,” said Colbert. “They’re a lot like us; they’re struggling a little bit. They’re looking for an identity, playing with a couple young quarterbacks.” Like SVC, Thiel has had a rough start to their season, with a current record of 0-3.

The football team’s 2010 T-shirts bear the caption “Enough is Enough,” and Coach Colbert thinks that that phrase sums up the team’s feelings. “I told them, enough with the fumbles, enough with the interceptions, enough with the bad penalties,” said Colbert. “I think they’ve embraced that. I think they still believe that, even though we’re 0-2.” Colbert believes his work since 2006 is going to start paying off, saying, “This fourth year I think we’re going to win ballgames.”

The past three homecoming weekends, SVC has had a disappointing showing on the football field. Colbert thinks this year is different. “I’m glad, and I hope that the alumni are glad, that football’s back,” said Colbert. “I think it adds something to a fall weekend when you have a football game. I think it can be a rallying point for a campus. We haven’t won a homecoming game yet,” Colbert admitted. “Obviously we want to win one.”

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