Football loses to Rhodes on road, suffers second loss in a row

| Associate Editor

Sophomore quarterback J.J. Tomlin drops back in the pocket and surveys the field against Ohio Northern University on Sept. 9. Tomlin completed 24 of 47 passes for 250 yards and threw two touchdowns in a 46-22 loss to Rhodes College on Saturday.Madelaine Azar | Student Life

Sophomore quarterback J.J. Tomlin drops back in the pocket and surveys the field against Ohio Northern University on Sept. 9. Tomlin completed 24 of 47 passes for 250 yards and threw two touchdowns in a 46-22 loss to Rhodes College on Saturday.

Miscues and a lack of focus plagued the Washington University football team on Saturday as the Red and Green struggled in all phases of the game in a 46-22 loss against Rhodes College.

After losing the season opener to Ohio Northern University by a touchdown, Wash. U. traveled to Memphis with the hope of recording its first win. Heading into the game, head coach Larry Kindbom was pleased with his team’s week of preparation and felt confident that the Bears would compete well. Instead, a slow offensive start along with poor defensive execution led to a 36-3 halftime deficit. The Bears didn’t get closer than 23 in the second half en route to the disappointing defeat.

Traditionally known for its ability to stop the run and create pressure in the backfield, the Bears’ defense has failed to establish that identity so far this season. On Saturday, it gave up over 200 yards on the ground for the second week in a row and 205 yards through the air. Kindbom believes that the issue has been a lack of mental focus and attention to the fundamentals.

“Our guys are working hard out there, but we’re not making the plays that are needed,” Kindbom said. “We’re trying hard out there, but we need to have better focus, especially after we get a penalty. We’re still figuring out what works best for this group of guys and I think we’re getting close.”

That mental breakdown was especially apparent in the second quarter as the Bears surrendered 21 points, giving Rhodes its commanding halftime lead. But after several adjustments during the break, the Bears played a better second half, containing Rhodes’ offense to 161 yards and surrendering only 10 points. Since the first quarter of their season opener, the Bears have given up 77 points, an uncharacteristic amount for a defense that surrendered only 11.5 points per game last season.

On the offensive side, Wash. U. couldn’t get anything going early in the game as the unit went three-and-out and lost a fumble on its first two possessions. According to Lonneman, the offensive unit is still trying to adjust to its no-huddle system.

“We’re still getting used to our new offense, so it’s part of why we started poorly,” Lonneman said. “I think all the guys on offense like how fast paced it is. We’re still getting used to [sophomore quarterback J.J. Tomlin] and our offense is heading in the right direction. With more time, our offense should be more effective both running and passing since defenses will be exhausted.”

That effectiveness was nonexistent in the first half as Wash. U. managed to put up only three points. While the Bears played better in the second half with three scoring drives, the Red and Green couldn’t open the running game as senior running back Zach Lonneman and company barely broke the 100-yard mark combined. Tomlin, who made his second career start, completed 24 of his 47 passes for 250 yards and two passing touchdowns with one interception.

“Tomlin is improving and he’s trying to get better every week,” Kindbom said. “He’s very courageous and he’s growing well. His ability to play hard and make good decisions is laudable, and that’s what you want out of your quarterback. We have a lot of guys who are also doing that. Our offensive linemen are doing a good job of opening the holes. We just need to be more consistent throughout the game.”

While Wash. U. managed to pick up 24 first downs, which is two more than Rhodes, Lonneman was disappointed with the team’s third-down performance as the Bears picked up only 9 of 19 conversions.

“It’s no secret that we need to keep drives alive longer so that our defense has less pressure,” Lonneman said. “We need to execute better on third-down conversions and focus on finishing. Hopefully we’ll see those adjustments soon.”

Lonneman added that the team isn’t discouraged by the results despite the 0-2 start.

“The whole team is pretty surprised by our two losses,” he said. “We have a really talented group of players and we thought that we could have a perfect season this season. With better focus and fewer miscues, the game would have been a lot closer. It’s tough, but we need to move on and learn from our mistakes.”

The Bears return to action on Saturday and will attempt to notch their first victory of the season as they host North Park University at Francis Field.

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