Costly penalties in overtime lead to football team’s loss
With less than three minutes left in the third quarter, senior running back Chris Castelluccio barged his way into the end zone on a 75-yard drive, giving the Washington University football team a 17-10 lead. The Bears seemed to be on the verge of winning their first game of the season, but Rhodes College made a fourth-quarter comeback and forced the Red and Green into an overtime showdown.
The game ended in a 20-17 loss.
“It was definitely a very disappointing loss for us,” sophomore defensive back Ryan Bednar said. “A lot [of our players] thought we were the better team and that we should win the game. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get the job done.”
The Bears’ loss on Saturday has led to an uncharacteristic 0-2 starting record. The last time Wash. U. opened a season with two straight losses was in 1989, the first year that head coach Larry Kindbom took over the football program. Nevertheless, the Red and Green showed improvements both offensively and defensively against Rhodes.
“We’re still trying to figure things out on both sides of the ball,” sophomore wide receiver Conor Sapp said. “We’re not quite where we want to be, but we’re trying to keep our heads up and make as many adjustments as possible.”
Wash. U. committed 84 yards worth of penalties in the game, playing a significant part in its defeat. Two of the seven penalties, a holding penalty for ten yards and a personal foul for 26 yards, occurred in overtime.
“In the heat of the game, when the pressure was on, we just weren’t disciplined enough,” Bednar said. “Clearly, our mental focus is not yet good enough, and it’s something we still need to work on.”
On offense, Castelluccio had a much better game, carrying the ball for 74 yards with two rushing touchdowns. Senior quarterback Dan Burkett, who threw four interceptions against No. 1 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, played much better against the Lynx as he threw for 104 yards with no picks; however, Burkett’s completion percentage has been lower than 50 percent for each of the past two games. He’s had trouble establishing a passing rhythm with his wide receivers and has faced pressure from opposing defenses, getting sacked three times in each game. Burkett did lead the team on three successful scoring drives, putting the Bears in a position to win the game.
“He’s still a good quarterback, but he’s been having a tough time so far,” Bednar said. “Maybe it has something to do with his confidence, but I’m sure he’s going to bounce back sometime soon. There [may be] something wrong with the communication, but we’ll for sure make some changes in practice this week.”
On defense, Wash. U. was able to limit Rhodes to 122 yards passing; however, when the Lynx switched its focus in the second quarter to the run game, the Bears had trouble stopping the team. Wash. U. gave up 239 yards on the ground.
“Traditionally, our number one goal has been to always stop the run. We haven’t done a good job of that so far,” Bednar said. “Rhodes found an effective play and ran it against us about 10 times. We figured it out in the end, but it was costly.”
Fortunately, the team’s heavy investment on the special teams unit this offseason has paid off. Senior kicker Eric Chalifour has made many quality punts, averaging about 39.8 yards per punt with three of them inside the twenty, putting the Bears’ defense in ideal positions.
The team hopes to make some crucial adjustments and win its first game of the season next Saturday, when it takes on Coe College at home.
“We have to bounce back, be aggressive and be ready to play,” Sapp said. “We’ve got to work even harder every day to get better and be as prepared as possible. We’re going to give it all we’ve got, and hopefully everything will work out.”