The Rams fell to Wayland Baptist University on Saturday at Farrington Field.
If the 54-24 loss was not bad enough, head coach Joe Prud’homme said he did not see the team make any improvements over last week’s loss to Lyon College.
“We didn’t come back from as well as we were last week,” he said. “Last week we played really really well and we didn’t make many mistakes this time we made the mistakes and we paid for it and that’s what happens when you’re not ready.”
Wayland Baptist scored two touchdowns in the game’s first minute, the first on Devonte Hayden’s 95-yard opening kickoff return, and then less than 30 seconds later on a 32-yard pass from Caleb O’Connor to Ben Owen; add in two extra points and the Rams trailed 14-0.
The Rams answered a few minutes later with a 23-yard Erik Richards pass to Cole Maxwell. Bryce Nye’s extra point was good to make the score 14-7.
But Wayland got a safety and then a 28-yard touchdown put the Rams behind 23-7 with only the first quarter gone.
In the second quarter, Parrish Dixon-Smith returned his first interception of the season 36 yards to close the gap to 23-14 after a Bryce Nye kick. Wayland Baptist scored another touchdown and then made a field goal bringing the score to 33-14 at halftime.
Nye kicked a field goal early in the third quarter, but the Pioneers answered with three touchdowns and extra points; by the end of the third quarter, the Rams trailed 54-17. The Rams scored the final touchdown of the game on a 33-yard Richards pass to Maxwell, followed by Nye’s extra point, bringing the final score to 54-24.
The Rams needed to improve on several things to be more competitive:
The Rams had plenty of confidence going into the game but lacked focus and attention, Prud’homme said.
“I think we just came out flat,” he said. ”We came out flat when we warmed up and that kind of carried over into the first quarter.”
The team allowed their energy to be affected by Wayland’s actions too much, linebacker Tristen Blake said.
“Our energy level was fine until some things happened and we just kind of went flat,” he said.
The problems really started before the game for the Rams, said running back Da’vonte Mitchell-Dixon. He agreed with Prud’homme that the team’s energy during the warmups wasn’t good enough.
“I feel like our energy during warmups and pre-game really dictated the outcome,” he said. “I feel like most of the team came out like it was just a normal day. It was the first time I thought our team didn’t care what the outcome would be and we cannot have that at all.”
The team didn’t improve from last week’s game against Lyon College, Prud’homme said.
“For the whole season,” he said, “we’ve definitely made some big strides from the beginning of the season to now.”
As each game is played, the Rams learn something new and come closer together, Blake said.
“Each week we have become closer as a team and have started to play more as a unit and not individuals,” he said.
The biggest gain the team has made since the first game is chemistry, linebacker Vincent Stephenson said.
“We have gained chemistry and learned how to better react off of each other as the play is developing,” he said.
The team has come together as a unit and realize execution is just as important as energy and force, Mitchell-Dixon said.
“I feel like we’ve became more of a unit and we started realizing we have to execute,” he said. “Our coaches always say if we have everybody doing what they’re supposed to do we’ll see better results.”
- Staying calm.
Wayland scoring so early in the game threw the Rams off their game a little bit, Blake said.
“We were not focusing on what we needed to,” he said. “Keep our composure and not retaliate against the other team when they try to get in our head.”
The early points shocked the team, Stephenson said.
“That’s usually not how it happens,” he said. “It took us a few drives to buckle down and put it behind us.”
Being behind 14-0 so early messed up the Rams’ momentum, Mitchell-Dixon said.
“Them catching us off guard like that was the turning point in the game,” he said. “It messed us up mentally.”
- Preventing mistakes.
The Rams could’ve executed better. If a few mistakes were eliminated the team could’ve stopped some of Wayland’s big plays and scored more often, Mitchell-Dixon said.
“There was plenty of times we came close to scoring or getting in the end zone and we made mistakes, he said. “If we cut the mistakes down we could of seen a different outcome.”
The mistakes hurt the team most. The Rams don’t have a lack of talent or ability but a few mistakes add up, Mitchell-Dixon said.
“We have two more games left and if we can fix our mistakes or at least limit them, I know we’ll end this losing streak,” Mitchell-Dixon said.
- Responding to penalties.
The Rams have to work on being consistent regardless of how the game is called or how the other team performs, Blake said.
“[Our biggest weakness is] not being consistent,” he said, “not responding with the right attitude to all the penalties.”
The team should’ve responded better to Wayland scoring so quickly, Stephenson said.
“I think we could have handled adversity during the game better,” Stephenson said, “especially after them scoring so early on.”
The Rams will play Arizona Christian University in the last home game of the season on Saturday at 2 p.m..
Prud’homme appreciates all the fans that have supported the Rams this season. It just takes time to gain experience and create a winning program, he said.
“The only way they can get the experience is to actually play,” he said, “and there is no magic solution for it except they have to play get experience and playing time.”