Goal: .500 Season
Posted: November 16, 2013
HARRISONBURG — After an emotional loss last week to Randolph-Macon, the Bridgewater College football team finishes its season with a welcome opponent. The Eagles, trying to avoid a losing record, host Catholic – a team BC has beaten 13 straight times dating back to 1999 – in their traditional season-ender today.
How does BC coach Michael Clark explain that extended string of success against one team?
“Anytime you get to the 10th game [of the season], it’s a matter of focus and concentration,” Clark said. “There’s a little bit of luck involved in it, too. I wish I could tell you that the last 13 impacted game 14, but they really don’t.”
The Cardinals (5-4 overall, 2-4 in the ODAC) come to Bridgewater (4-5, 1-5) on the heels of an impressive 38-29 win over ODAC title contender Guilford. In that game, Catholic had 508 yards of offense while running a staggering 99 offensive plays out of its shotgun spread formation.
Sophomore quarterback E.J. Montgomery was named ODAC Offensive Player of the Week, throwing four touchdowns for 180 yards, while also leading the Cardinals with 129 yards rushing and another score.
Tailback Mike Pitsenberger added 125 yards rushing with a pair of touchdowns — one receiving and one rushing.
“They’ve shown the ability to play spread football and pitch it around, but then they also got two good running backs and they can play ground-and-pound when they need to, Clark said. “That’s going to be the challenge that we have in terms of us trying to manage the tempo of the game.”
Guilford failed to control the tempo against Catholic. In addition to the 99 offensive snaps, the Cardinals held the ball for 48:18 while converting 12 of 18 third downs.
The Cardinals settled on Montgomery after using a two-QB system for most of the season. He has thrown for 840 yards for nine touchdowns while completing 61.4 percent of his passes.
“When you got a guy that’s playing out of the shotgun that has the ability to throw and run the ball, that’s always a tough fit,” Clark said. “Offensively, they create space for him, and to me that’s the challenge you face.”
Defensively, Catholic is experienced, with 12 seniors on that side of the ball. Conor Stueckler, a three-year starter at inside linebacker, leads the unit with 62 tackles.
“They’re kind of a physical football team up front that isn’t going to try and take risks in the secondary to expose their people,” Clark said. “They remind me a lot of W&L in that you’ve got to earn your keep.”
The Cardinals are the ODAC’s No. 2 scoring defense, allowing just 18.1 points per game. They also lead the ODAC with 22 sacks.
The Eagles will be without several of their key players today. Linebacker Alex Collins (foot), fullback Jeff Matthews (knee) and receivers Cassidy Burns (knee) and Shawn Lee (elbow) were injured in the loss to Macon.
Defensive ends John Brilliant and Logan Whitaker will play today after missing time with injuries.
To maintain the longest active winning streak in program history, the Eagles will need to rebound from last week’s 35-34 heartbreaker. QB Willie Logan said it was the most comfortable he has felt at Bridgewater, and the numbers proved his point. He finished the game 24-of-34 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
In his last two games, Logan has thrown for over 600 yards for five touchdowns without being intercepted.
“We’ve played two good games, we haven’t turned the ball over, our quarterback’s played well and we’ve played good people,” Clark said. “On a certain level, we’re taking some momentum I would hope into Game 10.”
Since 2000, the Eagles have finished with a sub-.500 record just once (4-6 in 2008). A win today would put BC at 5-5. Sending the 16 seniors out with a win is important, Clark said.
“There’s a big difference between 4-6 and 5-5, particularly if you earn that 5-5 in your last game,” he said.