Warriors need to fix turnover bug
The football wasn’t more than a few feet away from Tyler Jenny when it was evident he wanted it back in his hand. He could only stand in place on his own 31-yard line as he saw his second pass of the last Saturday’s game against Albright intercepted.
The Lions’ Chris Stephens was running the other way with the football and Jenny stood, hands on his hips in disbelief. Lycoming has made a habit of early turnovers this year, so the disbelief wasn’t in how Stephens could intercept the pass, but in how could the Warriors turn it over again?
It’s not just that Lycoming’s turnovers have come in the first quarter, but they’ve come on its first offensive possession. Saturday’s interception by Jenny on the Warriors’ second play was the fourth time this year he’s turned the ball over on Lycoming’s first offensive possession.
Somehow, only once has that turnover led to points. That came after a fumble against Wilkes when Williamsport graduate Jordan Fredo kicked a field goal to give the Colonels a 3-0 lead.
Jenny spoke following Lycoming’s 20-17 overtime win over Albright with repentance. He knew the throw to receiver Ryan Umpleby wasn’t the smart decision to make on that play, but he was trying to make a big play. He had John Sibel open on a quick slant, but Jenny tried to throw a bubble screen from the right hash toward the left sideline to Umpleby where there was potentially acres of running room if the pass was completed.
“That one was on me. I probably should have pumped it inside to John,” Jenny said after the game. “We have to start the game faster. Maybe we need to make it more of a focus. But that play is my fault and only my fault.”
Jenny was also intercepted to start the season-opening game at Brockport, and he was intercepted on the Warriors’ first two possessions against Lebanon Valley. Lycoming has gone 2-2 in the four games where it’s had the turnover on its opening possession.
But because the four turnovers have yielded only three points, it’s tough to link them to the two losses. Lycoming had far more problems against Brockport and Lebanon Valley than just early turnovers. But they’re concerning nonetheless.
Head coach Mike Clark goes into his coaches meeting every week with a list of goals for that week’s game and one of those goals is always to score first. Those early turnovers have put that goal in jeopardy.
“The other day was bad. He had a much cleaner throw he could have made. Brockport was a bad decision,” Clark said. “Turnovers in general are bad. Any sport that involves a ball is, for the most part, about possessions. You need the ball to score. So the numbers suggest it’s better to punt than it is to just give it to the other team.”
At this point, Lycoming can talk about the turnovers as merely a mild annoyance because the damage caused by any of the four hasn’t been enough to lose a game. But it’s more than just a mildly concerning trend.
In the three games this year where Lycoming hasn’t turned the ball over on its first possession, twice it has scored a touchdown of its own. Against Misericordia, the Warriors scored on its first two possessions in what was a blowout, 52-14, win. They also scored a touchdown against Delaware Valley in a game which came down to the final possession.
While Lycoming has had a stellar defense – which only gets tougher to play against on a short field – to fall back on, it knows it can’t sacrifice crucial possessions should it get to a potential playoff game. With their last four games decided by seven points or less, the Warriors understand how much can ride on each possession, and losing a scoring opportunity in a tight game is not an ideal way to play in the final weeks of the season.
“It’s always an emphasis for us to start fast every game,” Lycoming center Casey Strus said. “It hasn’t always worked out for us, but when we start fast and kind of quiet them a bit, it takes that emotional high that teams have at the beginning of a game and drops it down. It gives us time to get our play going and do what we do best to be successful.”
Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch-Rupert.