Bad breaks prevent BlueCats first victory
06/04/03 Jeff Gregory
The Evansville BlueCats lose again in heartbreaking fashion. This is a recording.
As often as the scenario like the one Saturday night in Knoxville plays out, one could believe that it is, indeed, a recording. The RiverHawks held on to give Evansville its tenth defeat 55-49. Tennessee improved to 4-5, while the ‘Cats fell to 0-10.
What appeared to do Evansville in was the failure of the defense to get a stop. Tennessee scored on every possession of the game, except their final offensive play when they missed a 33-yard field goal.
The game had an all too familiar feel. Just as in the road game May 17 against the Austin Rockers, Evansville out played their opponents in the stat book. The ‘Cats out passed Tennessee by 118 yards and had won the offensive yards contest 288-209. Evansville edged out the RiverHawks in possession time and ran eight more offensive plays than the home team.
However, it is the numbers on the scoreboard that matters most in games. Tennessee won the most important stat, the final score. Helping Tennessee’s cause was the relentless rushing attack. They seemingly dared the ‘Cats to cheat the run by keeping the ball on the ground. The Hawks ran the ball 34 times, practically unheard of in the indoor game. Birdie Dockery scored three times as he carried the ball 21 times for 82 yards.
Tennessee only put the ball in the air nine times completing less than half. Three of their four receptions went to Tavirus Davis. Davis made the most of his effort by scoring two touchdowns.
What added insult to injury was some controversial calls from the officiating crew. Two BlueCat touchdowns were called back because of penalty. What was even more painful was a Tennessee fumble recovered by the “Cats late in the game that was negated by, of all things, an inadvertent whistle. Despite these unfortunate breaks, Evansville still has to take responsibility for the results. DB Keith Lander believes team attitude affects the breaks that surface in games. “We have to be more hungry.” Lander believes that increasing the team drive and hunger will make the ball bounce in the BlueCats favor.
PICTURED RIGHT – ROBERSON ON THE LOOSE
Similar to his Austin performance, Akili Roberson showed his ability for the fans - the same fans that cheered for him in Knoxville last year. Roberson was 17-28 for 234 yards with four TD’s. He also dominated on the ground by having a game high 90 yards on eleven carries.
Doing the damage on the receiving end was Dale Jennings and Levron Williams. Jennings, a player on the defense as well, corralled nine passes for 105 yards. Williams caught three balls for 59 yards including two touchdowns.
PICTURED LEFT - JENNINGS GRABS A PASS THROUGH THE OUTSTRETCHED ARMS OF A TENNESSEE DEFENDER
Kicker Chad Cole solidified his spot against the RiverHawks. He was five for five in PAT attempts. Cole now boasts of a perfect conversion rate (13-13) on his short season.
Evansville may be the most dangerous team in the NIFL to their remaining opponents this year. They have shown that they have the firepower to do damage. In fact, if the ball would have bounced a differently a few times, the ‘Cats could have a .500 record. In addition, because of their record, future opponents could easily overlook them. That record also equips Evansville to have a “no holds barred” attitude in aggression and strategy.
Ripe for the upset this week is the Horsemen from Lexington. They shellacked the ‘Cats at Rupp Arena in Lexington on May 10. Coach Avery Atadero is looking for a different result Saturday at Roberts Stadium. Lexington is used to a much larger playing surface than they will find in Evansville. Hopefully, that will affect their highflying passing attack. Their spacing and timing may be off enough for the BlueCats to capitalize.
Evansville also knows that they have to get in the face of Horsemen quarterback Dusty Bonner this week. Pressure on the passer is one of the most effective ways to protect the BlueCat secondary that has been suspect in recent weeks.
Coach Atadero has seen his team improve over the season despite the won/loss record. He is pleased with the personnel in key roster spots. “We match up with any team in the league at the skilled positions.” He refers to last year all star QB Akili Roberson, RB/WR’s Levron Williams and Dale Jennings and RB Mike Cosie. However Atadero knows that he still has to find improvement in the trenches.
Various aspects of the team have risen to the occasion during the season. The ‘Cats are still waiting for all parts of the game to come together at the same time. The Evansville faithful hope the time has come and will manifest itself in the form of a victory over Lexington Saturday night.
PHOTOS COURTESY MARK MCCOY, EVANSVILLE BLUECATS
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