Improved BlueCats fall to champs
05/07/03 Jeff Gregory
The BlueCats had a good plan going into Sunday’s game against Ohio Valley. They planned to get off to a great start by jumping out in front of the Greyhounds and getting a couple of early defensive stops. As they have seen with the Hounds, that strategy pays off. It did again Sunday, but not for Evansville. Ohio Valley jumped to a 10-0 lead after the first period and posted 27 for the half, which was enough to give them the victory over the 0-6 BlueCats, 39-22.
Despite the slow start, the ‘Cats appeared to claw back into the game in the second quarter. Levron Williams, coming off “Offensive Player of the Week” honors, scored two touchdowns during the period. They concluded consecutive, impressive drives where Evansville finally took advantage of the soft spot on the field by capitalizing on pass plays behind the linebackers but under deep coverage. These types of plays had been elusive in previous games.
However, the ‘Cats couldn’t stand prosperity as Ohio Valley (6-0) answered each time with a touchdown of their own. The old sports adage that states that the most important time to be successful on defense is immediately after scoring held true, as Evansville couldn’t recover from those defensive lapses.
The player of the game was OV kicker John Wehrle who connected for 6 field goals – more than the BlueCats have managed all season. Without Wehrle’s foot, the game would have had a whole new look. He was 6-7 in field goal attempts. His only miss came from 47 yards. He was also perfect in three PAT attempts.
The defense as a whole played a very good game against the defending champs. The BlueCats stuffed Ohio Valley twice on goal line stands. The first shifted the momentum to Evansville and inspired the first TD drive of the game. The stop occurred on a Greyhound possession where the Hounds had the ball first and goal at the Evansville three. After three unsuccessful attempts at driving the ball through the BlueCat line, Ohio Valley’s QB Shane Franzer coughed up the rock and Evansville defensive back Shawn Mercer (PICTURED RIGHT) scooped up the ball and returned it 7 yards. This gave the ‘Cats the operating room they needed to capitalize.
The defense continued to flourish in the second half as they kept Ohio Valley out of the end zone the final two quarters. The offense could not take advantage, however, so the ‘Cats fell short again to the dismay the Evansville faithful.
Quarterback Akili Roberson showed signs of improvement as he threw for 99 yards and a TD with only one pick. Newcomer John Gordon caught the only TD reception for the ‘Cats on a play-action pass in the third quarter.
PICTURED LEFT RIGHT - ROBERSON FINDS GORDON IN THE
Despite the loss, the BlueCats showed signs of the team Evansville fans have been waiting for. The offensive line seems to progress every week and was a big factor in Roberson’s improvement. As a whole, the ‘Cats played well considering this same Greyhound team pounded the ‘Cats 55-19 just one month ago.
Evansville plans to address the kicking game failures. A new kicker, the fourth of the season may be signed this week. The kicking game has been the most detrimental aspect of the team this year. The BlueCats have only managed four field goals in 23 attempts and a horrid eight for 19 in PAT conversions.
Evansville goes on the road this week as they travel to Lexington to take on the surprising 4-1 Horsemen. Lexington is coming off and impressive win over Myrtle Beach. Horsemen quarterback Dusty Bonner threw for 6 touchdowns, three of which fell in the hands of WR Dougie Allen. Bonner’s game featured an impressive 17-22 completion efficiency for a gaudy 202 yards. It will be key for the BlueCats to put more pressure on him than they have shown previously against league passers.
The BlueCat staff and players are convinced that the pieces are coming together. The offensive line is gelling and the offense is showing signs of life. The defense is putting together some pretty impressive series of late, also. The ‘Cats have a lot to prove as they start their two-game road trip.
"Photos courtesy of Mark McCoy, Evansville BlueCats"
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