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Lafayette assesses the damage
In a span of less than three minutes on the clock Saturday night — and only halfway through the first quarter — Lafayette football fans watched two starting defensive players helped from the Fisher Stadium turf. One left under his own power, but limping badly; the other had his arms around training staff and his legs dangling in the air.
Leopards coach Frank Tavani said Sunday that he can’t remember that ever happening in his career on College Hill.
But the early losses of safety Donald Ellis and linebacker Nate Dixon were only the beginning of a night full of strange twists for the heavily favored Leopards, who put themselves into an early hole in the Patriot League with a 28-24 defeat at the hands of a Georgetown team that “got opportunistic and did what it had to do to win the game,” according to Tavani.
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“That is not going to be their last win can, I can tell you that,” Tavani added. “I don’t think it’ll be their only league win, either.”
At the same time, he said about his own team, “I thought maybe we were a little soft, and maybe it was because of the way we practiced [last week], trying to back down a little bit and recover from a hard preseason camp. You second-guess yourself, but, a play here and a play there and we’re not having this discussion … We have a ways to go before we resume league play [Oct. 30 is its next official PL game]. We have to get a lot better, which is not something I didn’t know going in. I’m very well aware who we are … a young [first] team backed up by even younger guys.”
It is difficult to know where to start in assessing the Lafayette opener, but because four starters were injured —including quarterback Ryan O’Neil — Matt Bayly’s bailiwick seems like the most logical place.
Tavani said the crowd in the room of the director of sports medicine Sunday morning “was not as bad as you might think,” but here’s the rundown on the biggies.
“It’s clear that Donald Ellis needs surgery” on his right knee, Tavani said. It will be scheduled in the next week or so, and Ellis is considering making application for a medical redshirt, which would allow him to play next year.
Quarterback Ryan O’Neil [knee] “could be a week or two … he could possibly play this week, depending on how he responds, but I would say at this point, he’s doubtful, but for next week, for sure… Based on what I saw today, I would say it’s doubtful he could practice Tuesday or Wednesday. He’s still on crutches,” Tavani said.
Linebacker Dixon “doesn’t look too bad,” Tavani said. “His [knee] is a little different; there doesn’t appear to be any major damage; it could be a week or two.”
Linebacker Leory Butler’s shoulder slipped out of joint and jumped right back in, and Tavani called his status “a day-to-day thing.”
The coach took a very realistic tack regarding the injuries.
“A lot of things occur when you have something like this,” he said. “More guys have to be ready to play and some young freshmen may have to be prepared to play. It’s the next-man-in theory. You have to be able to overcome it.”
Lafayette begins its Ivy League schedule this week, playing at Penn at 7 p.m. Saturday. That one is followed by games at Princeton, at home against Harvard and at Columbia.
Some major Leopard errors — like pass interceptions in the end zone and at the Hoyas 3, fumbles lost at the Georgetown 17 and 40, a missed 33-yard field goal and a punt mix-up giveaway at the Lafayette 3 — overshadowed an offensive effort that produced 509 yards on 90 plays.
“Everybody took a turn,” Tavani said. “There was not one thing you can hang your hat on and say this one thing lost the game. You can name six other things after that that could have won it for you. But we didn’t get it done.”
Except for the fact they have to keep people healthy, it looks like the Leopards are in for a rough practice week.
Lafayette assesses the damage
By Paul Reinhard, SPECIAL TO THE MORNING CALL