The College had a rough outing at Montclair State University on Saturday, Oct. 13, as seven turnovers plagued them in a 24-14 loss to the Red Hawks.
“The turnover battle is a very important aspect of the game that we have, up until this week’s game, done very well with,” junior linebacker Nick Bricker said. “It’s not only the offense. Our defense has to come up with turnovers of their own and by doing that will cut the opponents’ time of possession as well.”
The Lions (2-4, 1-3) started the game off very sloppy by turning it over on their first two drives. On their first attempt, the team drove down the field 62 yards, only to see senior quarterback Dan Dugan throw an interception. No damage was done, but on the College’s following drive, a fumble led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Bill Roman of Montclair to make it 7-0.
“The turnovers that we had were uncharacteristic of our football team,” senior running back Nick Tyson said. “We have to continue to work on the little details in practice so that we can limit mistakes and take advantage of what the defense is giving us. Unfortunately it was hard for our offense to get into a rhythm because of our mistakes that turned into giving the ball away. Offensively, we put our defense in a tough position.”
In the second quarter, another turnover fell into the hands of the Red Hawks, but they gave it right back. The Lions capitalized on that one with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Dugan to Tyson to tie the game.
Fortunate to be even after three turnovers, a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown for Rashad White of Montclair was a tough blow to the Lions’ stomach. A field goal before the half had the College at a 17-7 deficit.
“We have to deal with adversity better,” Bricker said. “We are a team that relies heavily on momentum and when it swings in our favor, we have to take advantage. When it sways the other way, we have to find a way to make it come back.”
The Lions were still very much in the game, but that changed after Roman scored on a 66-yard run as the defensive problem guarding against the big play, which hurt the Lions on multiple occasions earlier in the season, returned
A little later on in the fourth quarter, Dugan scored on a 21-yard run, but it was simply too little too late as a scoreless final period capped off the game.
“When you have seven turnovers it is hard to win a game,” Tyson said. “Usually when a team has seven takeaways they end up blowing the other team out of the water. Our defense held strong and offensively we tried to put the ball into the endzone on every drive.
What’s frustrating about the loss is that the Lions bettered their conference counterparts in nearly every statistical category, but it’s nearly impossible to win a game when you turn the ball over seven times. This hasn’t been an issue this season, so it may just be a fluke, but it’s certainly something that will lead to bad things if repeated.
“On our football team there is no finger-pointing,” Tyson said. “We lean on each other as a unit and regroup to find an answer when things are not going the way that we had planned. There is not an athlete on this football team that would give up on another member. If we were down by 50 we would fight to till the clock hit zero.”
An emotional game awaits this Saturday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. against Kean University for Homecoming. The Lions scored a huge victory in last year’s Homecoming game and will be looking for an encore.
“The beauty of TCNJ’s homecoming is that no matter who the opponent is, the atmosphere of Lion’s stadium brings out the best in us,” Tyson said. “This time around we are going to try to control what we can, limit mistakes and fight’ til the end.”