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Third quarter continues to be a struggle for Lycoming

November 7, 2013 - Mitch Rupert
The Lycoming football team might as well have been asked to explain the theory of relativity following Saturday's loss to King's. And in all honesty, explaining the theory of relativity may have been easier.

The quizzical looks on the faces of the players and even head coach Mike Clark when trying to explain the Warriors' third-quarter struggles this year were nearly identical. Raised eyebrows, a shoulder shrug and a loss for words ran rampant through explanations.

There was no denying the third quarter has been the elephant in the room for a Lycoming team which has played five consecutive games decided by seven points or less. It's not that the team has given up a massive amount of points – they've actually been outscored by more in the fourth quarter than the third quarter. But it's how the Warriors have played coming out of the locker room which has been so puzzling.

Saturday the problem was brought to the forefront again when Lycoming surrendered a lead in the third quarter, and would have given up even more points if not for two terrific defensive stands deep in its own territory. The 39-yard touchdown pass to give King's the lead with 9 seconds to go grabbed the headlines, but it was the third-quarter struggle which had a big part in the Warriors losing their second MAC game of the season.

“Offensively we had a great first half, but in the third quarter we did nothing,” Lycoming tailback Craig Needhammer said. “That's been the theme of the last four weeks. We got lucky against Widener when we only ran nine offensive plays in the third quarter. Same with Delaware Valley. Lebanon Valley came back and beat us. Coming out in the second half we just have to be better.”

Three times in the last fives games Lycoming has surrendered a halftime lead in the third quarter. Against both Widener and Delaware Valley, the previous two MAC champions, Lycoming was able to overcome the sluggish second-half start to win the game. And against King's last week, quarterback Tyler Jenny led a scoring drive which gave the Warriors a lead with under a minute to go before the Monarchs won in the final 10 seconds.

The first-half offensive precision which has led to Lycoming outscoring its opponents 106-43 in the first half has absolutely disappeared in the third quarter most weeks. Only against Wilkes and Misericordia have the Warriors managed to score more than seven points in a third quarter this year. In fact, the 20 points against Wilkes is more than half of the 36 points Lycoming has scored in the third quarter this year.

Take away that game, and Lycoming has been outscored 43-16 in the third quarter.

“Sometimes (in the first half) you get into a rhythm, get the ball back and come back and do it again,” Clark said. “You go into halftime and you're down for 20 minutes and you lose that rhythm.”

Saturday, a rough third quarter involved giving up an 89-yard drive to King's, who took the lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal on the quarter's opening drive. Then after three unsuccessful plays, Lycoming punter Zack Czap had a punt blocked for the first time this season, setting up King's with first down at the Warriors' 17-yard line.

Lycoming halted that drive with a turnover on downs thanks to a remarkable diving play by middle linebacker Kabongo Bukasa to knock away a fourth-down pass. The defense came up big again when Warriors receiver Matt Atkinson fumbled on the first play following Bukasa's defensive gem. Braden Zeiner, Tyler Smith and Kyle Sullivan combined for three terrific plays, holding King's to minus-2 yards on the possession to get the ball back to Lycoming's offense.

The Warriors ended up running just nine plays in the third quarter Saturday.

“We talk about everything at halftime and we make the necessary adjustments and they usually work,” Clark said. “(Saturday) they didn't because they were able to come out, go right down the field and take the lead. Then we turn the ball over, have a punt blocked … It's just a horrible sequence.”

“It's a lack of execution. The plays are there, we're just not performing to our capabilities,” Needhammer said. “You can see what happens when we're able to execute. We're able to have long drive that finish with points. But when we go three-and-out in the third quarter, that's really frustrating.”

The Warriors have been able to shrug off the struggles for much of the season because it never really cost them a game. Saturday felt like opportunities lost for a team which still had a very realistic chance of claiming and outright MAC championship and gaining the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Instead, coupled with Lebanon Valley's overtime win over Delaware Valley, the Warriors' playoffs hopes are all but dashed. But Lycoming can still claim a share of the MAC title with two wins and one Lebanon Valley loss.

“We know we have the offensive line, the skill guys and a great quarterback. It's just a lack of execution,” Needhammer said. “And it's frustrating because we know we're better than what we've performed.”

 
 

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