Night Train falls prey to Bandits

04/08/02 La Crosse Tribune
Doby Howard wants a smaller uniform. That's pretty much all he could talk about after the game.

The La Crosse Night Train running back and kick returner wore a large jersey Sunday afternoon against the Sioux City Bandits. It was a little baggy on the 5-foot-8 speedster, and it may have kept him from getting into the end zone.

"I have to get a medium because they're always getting my jersey," said Howard, who returned seven kickoffs for 167 yards against the Bandits, and just missed scoring on two of them when he was dragged down by that large jersey. "If I get a smaller one, I'll go all the way."

Even if Howard had scored on those two kickoffs, the Night Train still would have lost. That's about all La Crosse coach John Schimon could talk about after the game.

The defense, which had been the one reliable facet of the Night Train in their first two losses, suddenly became the most vulnerable, as Sioux City outgunned La Crosse 62-33 at the La Crosse Center.

"Pretty much every time we got the ball, we marched it," Schimon said. "Our defense couldn't hold up their end. They didn't get any pressure on the quarterback."

What the La Crosse defense did do consistently was pick up penalties. The Night Train defense committed 10 penalties in all, but it was the type of penalties that had Schimon fuming at the half.

The Night Train were called for three personal fouls after Sioux City touchdowns, which were enforced after Howard's returns. La Crosse defenders picked up four more penalties that kept Sioux City drives going, all of which led to touchdowns and a 41-21 halftime deficit.

They even gave the Bandits another shot at a missed extra point.

"They made too many stupid mental mistakes in the first half - all those stupid personal fouls," Schimon said. "We got that corrected at halftime in the locker room."

What was said in the locker room?

"Nothing I can repeat," said La Crosse wide receiver Ben Antony, who led Night Train wide-outs with six catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns. "It was basically about mental errors, losing the games for ourselves."

"Let's say it was a closed door discussion and it wasn't very pleasant," Schimon said. "I pretty much told them they're playing like immature kids out there. If we get beat, don't take it out on the other team and get a stupid penalty. That's what killed us."

The La Crosse defense composed itself in the second half, but the damage had been done, mostly by Sioux City quarterback Jarrod DeGeorgia. He threw for 175 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for another one.

"We can't keep swapping touchdowns with them all game," Antony said. "We've got to force turnovers, and we didn't do that at all."

For the most part, the La Crosse offense was up to the challenge. Starting quarterback Colby Vogt, who was supposed to split snaps with Howard, threw for 141 yards and four touchdowns. Howard didn't take over at quarterback until late in the fourth quarter.

Schimon had planned to platoon both players at the position to utilize Howard's running ability, but Vogt's performance may have moved him solidly back into the starting role. Howard only rushed for 23 yards, but Vogt said his impact on offense sometimes goes unnoticed.

"Doby's a great element," he said. "That's how we're scoring half these points. Even when other guys are scoring, it's because of his threat coming out of the backfield."

INJURY UPDATE: Night Train receiver Jo Jo Justice, who caught five passes and a touchdown in the game, was taken out of the La Crosse Center on a stretcher by ambulance after diving headfirst into the wall in the second half. At the time, Schimon said Justice was moving his arms and legs, and had apparently sustained a neck injury. A spokesperson for Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center said Justice was treated and released.

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