The Money Down (Revisited)
Greetings again from the Booth, high above the Sprint Field of Shentel Stadium at Shenandoah University!
No Hornets football this weekend, as they are on a bye week and preparing for their ODAC opener Thursday night against Randolph Macon. We’ll look back at last Saturday’s 31-13 defeat at the hands of NC Wesleyan, but first a little housecleaning…
To the Atlanta Braves: You are all cordially invited to the Nationals NL East Division Championship celebration, which could happen this weekend in Pittsburgh. While the Nats were schlepping around on a less-than-stellar road trip this week, the “Bravos” were sweeping the New York Mets to help reduce Washington’s “magic number” to 2. Which means it’s all over but the shouting. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo should at least send a case of champagne down to Atlanta for the help this week. The Nationals are limping into the post season, and hopefully will get healthy heading into October.
And, the SOS is already being sent out from the 0-2 Washington Redskins. SOS stands for “Same Ol ‘Skins”, who have reverted back to the trainwreck we’ve become accustomed to in the Dan Snyder era. This week, there have been stories that teammates are not happy with QB Kirk Cousins, leaks about DB Bashaud Breeland not happy about the Redskins’ defensive schemes, and the usual drama that surrounds the burgundy & gold circus out in Ashburn. Already in Week 3 of the NFL, it’s a must-win situation for the defending NFC East champs as they head to New York to face the Giants. Only 3 teams since 1990 have started the season 0-3 and made the playoffs. The 2016 season could be over early if the Skins don’t find a way to win Sunday.
Now, to this week’s topic. I wrote last year in this blog about the “money down” in football, which is 3rd down. It’s the down where drives stay alive and lead to points. Conversely, it is also the down where drives come to a screeching halt. In last week’s loss to NC Wesleyan, the Bishops converted 11 of 18 third downs, including a huge 48-yard pass from deep in their own territory on a 3rd and 10. The Hornets made only 1 of 12 third down conversion attempts. Thus, the SU defense was on the field much too long, and wore down at the end.
Third down conversions will be crucial this Thursday night when the Hornets open league play at home against Randolph Macon. The Yellow Jackets are a big, physical football team, and have beaten Shenandoah soundly the last several seasons by winning at the line of scrimmage. RMC traditionally builds it’s team around it’s offensive and defensive lines, and features a run-first attack, which sets up the play-action pass. By gaining 4 yards or more per carry, the Jackets get into managable third-down and short yardage situations, and keep the chains moving. The matchup to watch this week is the young and undersized line against the big horses of RMC.
For the Hornets to win Thursday, it is imperative for them to find a way to get Randolph-Macon into third-and-long situations, while offensively possessing the ball and using either the short-passing game or the run to keep from playing “behind the chains”, something that hurt them last week against NC Wesleyan. The Hornets must also find a way to balance their pass-heavy attack with some semblance of a running game. The last two weeks have seen SU post 14 and minus 16 yards respectively. That is not Shenandoah football.
My prediction: My heart is with the Hornets, but my head is not. RMC 30, SU 20. However, I won’t mind being wrong.
Don’t forget the special Thursday night starting time of 6:30, and keep in mind that there will be parking restrictions while the new events center is being built next to Shentel. Enjoy the game, and until next week…