By: Max Caster
Before the Pioneers battled with Shippensburg last Saturday, I could pinpoint the team’s problems but could not reach the solutions. Eric Anderwkavich was turning the ball over left and right. Thomas Beverly did not look as explosive as he did in his freshman year. The talented defense was giving up over 200 yards rushing like it was the thing to do. And the special teams committed errors repeatedly.
Sure the solutions to those issues seem straightforward. A player could take time to look over reads, play under control or he could just play tougher. But after these issues came up in Week 2 against California (PA.), they were resurrected in Week 3’s game with Mercyhurst.
So how does a coach get a group of panicking, floundering players to reach these solutions?
Nope, I’m not joking. In my weekly sit down with Pioneers Head Coach Bryan Collins, I posed one of my slick, smile-cracking questions. Little did I know I would get one of the most telling answers of the week.
“I’ve never had facial hair in my life,” explained Collins. “I forgot who I was. So I cut it off and told the team to remember who we are.”
An identity issue! That’s the bridge to the solutions. And Collins played it perfectly.
Instead of verbally accosting the players, or putting them through longer practices, Collins was able to get the improvement without making the players feel like it was a punishment. With that mindset, the players focused on their true identity coming into the year. They were once again a favorite in the PSAC, rather than a letdown. And the changes were obvious.
Anderwkavich was able to lead the team effectively, accounting for three of the team’s four touchdowns. Thomas Beverly ripped off several impressive runs, including a 50-yard rumble and a 21-yard touchdown. The defense only allowed 136 rushing yards. And while Paul Stoltz missed a field goal, there were no blocked kicks, missed assignments or fumbles on special teams.
The 31-14 win over the Red Raiders marked the Pioneers’ return to the dominant squad they originally thought they were. And it’s all because Coach Bryan Collins decided to take a Bic razor to his face. It’s little, spontaneous acts like this that can be a catalyst for a team during the season. Many professional athletes tempt fate with crazy superstitions, in the end its all apart of the game.