If you saw yesterday's game, you witnessed a new era of Holy Cross Football. Life after Dominic Randolph certainly won't be easy, but if the performance by Ryan Taggart in the 38-7 victory over Howard is an indication of how the offense will flow this season, I'd say we are in good hands. While the "O" did stall at times, there was much to like from yesterday's performance. The offense performed well, the defense was exceptional, but the play from the guys on special teams is what caught my eye the most. Kickers, punters, and returners may not always receive the recognition they deserve, but all came through big time yesterday. Many games can be won and lost on special teams; there is a reason, after all, this aspect of the game is called "special."
- Don Lemieux's 6 touchbacks on kick offs and a 63 yard punt
- Rob Dornfried (pictured right) 5/5 on PATs and 1/1 on field goals
- Freddie Santana's 85 yard punt return
- The entire kick off and punt units great coverage against some speedy and elusive Bison returners
With Rob Dornfried and Don Lemieux handling the kicking duties (both were all-league performers from last year's squad), I expect Holy Cross to have the best kicking game in the Patriot League. Although Dornfried has plenty of leg (he can put them through from 45-50 yards), the addition of Paul Tearson is an added weapon when Coach Gilmore wants to 'call long distance.' Tearson was a three year member of the soccer team at HC, but decided to give football a try after seeing reduced playing time as a junior. Tearson clearly earned the trust and confidence of Coach Gilmore after his performance in Spring Ball and preseason. In yesterday's game, Gilmore inserted Tearson into the game to attempt a 51 yard field goal. Although he missed the kick wide left, it certainly had the distance to split the uprights.
When analyzing special teams, let's not overlook the kickoff and kick return units. The ability to break a big play, or prevent one, can alter the outcome of a game dramatically. The momentum shifts that result from a big return or big hit certainly set the tone for that coming offensive/defensive series. The kick coverage was superb yesterday (mostly because Lemieux booted 4 kicks into the endzone), and the return team held their blocks very well. Alex Johnson, one of the returners alongside Chandler Fenner, nearly broke two returns for touchdowns.
I guarantee that in this coming week's contest against UMASS, special teams will factor into the outcome of the game. The Minutemen always have several athletes who can burn the opposition on returning kicks and punts, so being able to contain these guys for the duration of an entire game will be integral to the Crusaders' success. If you remember back in 2008 when UMASS visited Fitton Field in the season opener, Courtney Robinson returned a kickoff 59 yards just before halftime to setup a Minutemen touchdown. In 2007, Robinson returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Limiting opportunities like these will not only be important against UMASS, but against all other teams with supreme athletic ability.
All aspects of special teams performed well against Howard; now let's see if they can do the same against UMASS.
Look later tonight or tomorrow for my thoughts on the Howard game.
Kevin Doyle '11