Photo by Kevin Nagle
When informed that the Bryant Hornets had rushed for 371 yards and finished with over 400 yards of offense after Friday night’s game against the Little Rock Catholic Rockets, offensive coordinator Lance Parker was pleasantly surprised.
And when head coach Paul Calley commented on the game in its immediate wake, you could tell, it didn’t feel like a things had gone particularly well despite the 30-10 win. Part of that was the three turnovers.
But, after a review of the game, the coach had a different perspective.
“We got a look at the film and because I’m always the prognosticator of doom, I wanted to give these guys a little credit,” he quipped.
“You know the game didn’t flow like you want it to but, as far as effort, it was our best effort of the year,” he stated on Monday. “As far as execution, we had a lot fewer breakdowns. Scheme-wise, that’s the closest to a whole game that we’ve played all year, for four quarters. So we’re getting there. If we cut out the untimely mistakes — we turned the ball over three times.”
Actually, the Hornets hadn’t suffered three turnovers in a game since the 34-7 win over the Rockets in 2014.
“Catholic is totally unpredictable defensively,” Calley noted. The Rockets play a gambling defense, which gives them a chance to create bad plays for an offense but also creates opportunities for big plays, disrupting flow is what it’s all about.
The turnovers, the coach admitted, kind of overshadowed some of the positives in the immediate aftermath. They were frustrating as opportunities missed.
“It really was,” he related, “and giving up big plays when we were in the right coverage. Everything is right.”
The Hornets’ secondary is still gelling. Only one player on the two-deep group came into the season with much experience at all. The ability is there, indicated Bryant defensive coordinator Steve Griffith before Friday’s game, they just need to bring their practice performances to the game.
And sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to the other team for executing a few plays.
“I thought the front seven played extremely well,” Calley asserted. “And the offensive line, we’d miss on a couple of a new things that we did but to be able to run for nearly 400 yards or have 400 yards of total offense with nine (Catholic defensive) guys in the box — I thought they did pretty good. Of course, our backs fix a lot of things.”
And, besides the fumbles — one on special teams and the other two when runners were fighting for extra yardage, once at the goal line — the Hornets only had six lost-yardage plays on offense in 57 snaps, none over 5 yards.
“On every one of the offensive plays, our guys — even if they went to the wrong person — they were locked on and were still running their feet, and they played ‘til the whistle blew,” Calley noted. “And that’s what we’ve been asking them to do.
“We’re at that point now where we can play with good teams if we leave out the mistakes,” he said. “I didn’t know if we were going to get there. I was beginning to wonder but, after watching the film, and the way — even when we had bad plays — if we did something bad offensively, the defense swung the momentum back in our favor. And vice versa, offensively. They’d go down and get a big score then we move the ball, get points. Responding is a big key.”
This week, when the team travels to Alma, history could be in the making for the program. A win would not only make them the first Hornets team to open the season 6-0 since 1999, they’d be just the second in the history of the program to do so.
In addition, it would be the 100th win at Bryant for Calley, the winningest coach since the program started in 1949. He would be just the 15th active coach to earn 100 wins at one school. The last to do it was Fayetteville coach Daryl Patton, a Bryant alum who was the head coach for the Hornets prior to Calley, who served as his assistant.