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Wagner Tries To Turn The Page
If it’s not panic time at Wagner College, there’s definitely a sense of urgency surrounding the football program.
And when Cornell University makes its first visit to Grymes Hill on Saturday afternoon, the rare game against an Ivy League opponent can’t come fast enough for the Seahawks.
A capacity crowd is expected to fill the stadium as the school celebrates the 50th anniversary of the undefeated 1960 team, and the home opener promises to be a festive affair.
But, frankly, head coach Walt Hameline has more pressing, immediate concerns.
The Seahawks played poorly in a 24-9 season-opening loss at NCAA Division II Assumption College. They gave up a few big plays, fell behind 24-3 at halftime and seemed a step behind the Greyhounds most of the night in Worcester, Mass.
“Anytime you lose, you want to rip your head off,” said Hameline. “Kids forget about it a lot faster than coaches. Coaches live with it … players are usually pretty good about letting it go.”
Those who witnessed the sluggish performance would agree that Wagner would be best served by having a short memory.
“I was a little worried about the mental toughness of our football team,” said Hameline. “And just our general toughness. It doesn’t matter who you play, you have to play with some vengeance and you have to be hungry.”
Wagner can makes amends against a Cornell team that finished last in the Ivy League and hired first-year head coach Kent Austin, a former Canadian Football League quarterback who spent the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator of a high-scoring University of Mississippi team that won two Cotton Bowls.
The game will be Cornell’s opener, so the Seahawks don’t have much to go on. And it’s difficult to measure the relative strengths of the Northeast Conference, which allows schools to offer a maximum of 34 scholarships, with those of the financial aid-based Ivy League.
“It’s kind of a three-tier approach: Can they play? Can they pay? And can they get in?” explained Austin of Cornell’s football recruiting philosophy. “There’s obviously a transition (from the SEC) in getting arms around and understanding the complexities of both financial aid and admissions.”
That said, the Ivy League rookie coach sounds much like the Wagner coaches did last week prior to their season opener against Assumption.
“It’s one thing to see guys perform in scrimmages and practices,” said Austin, “and it’s completely different when you’re on the football field in a real game situation and the bullets are flying. I don’t know how our guys will perform when the lights are on.
“I know if we don’t contain their quarterback (sophomore Nick Doscher), we’ll be in trouble. He can move the sticks with his feet … he likes to buy time and throw the ball downfield.”
Not much of anything went right for Wagner in its opener, when only David Lopez’s 44-yard field goal and a short fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Doscher to Tyrone Collins dented the scoreboard.
“Our special teams, which I believe should be one of our strengths because we have the people to do it, didn’t get it done,” said Hameline. “We didn’t come up with any turnovers defensively when we needed to in the second half and we didn’t move the ball consistently.”
Cornell’s arrival will offer a chance at football redemption.
“The only thing that cures a loss, as long as I’ve been doing this, is a win,” said Hameline. “So you need to come out and win.”
By Jim Waggoner, Staten Island Advance