IUP FOOTBALL: Crimson Hawks striving for balanced offensive attack
Nearly every football coach in America says he wants his offense to be an even balance of running and passing. But the truth is that few teams ever accomplish that on a consistent basis.
That's why IUP coach Curt Cignetti isn't bothered by the lopsided nature of the Crimson Hawks' play calling during Saturday's 33-6 whipping of Southern Connecticut State.
In trouncing a team expected to compete for an NCAA Division II playoff berth, IUP ran the ball 57 times and passed it just 17 times. Some might look at that and be concerned about such an unbalanced ratio, but Cignetti said he doesn't consider his team one that only occasionally puts the ball in the air.
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"We want to be balanced offensively," he said, "and we came out early and were balanced. But then we got ahead and sort of ran the ball to get out of the game. So the run-pass ratio was kind of skewed because of the score."
As evidence of that, IUP threw only four passes in the second half. The Crimson Hawks led at the break, 17-6.
Prior to the season starting, Cignetti said that there would not be pressure on quarterback Pat Smith to put the team on his shoulders and carry it to victory. Instead, he wanted Smith to manage the offense and let the skill players take care of things.
Against SCSU, Smith didn't seem to have much on his plate. But Cignetti said Smith played well -- evidenced by the senior's stats: 11-for-16, 141 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
"Pat played well," Cignetti said. "But he missed a couple of throws that he could have made and should have made. … I think there were opportunities in the passing game that we did not capitalize on early in the game. But the passing game, like all the other phases of the game, we're looking to improve."
It would certainly help the Crimson Hawks to have a steady passing attack. But considering the way they ran the ball against SCSU (310 yards, 3 touchdowns), not to mention the time of possession (almost 38 minutes out of a possible 60), shows the importance of a good running game. In fact, IUP has won the last 48 games in which it has rushed for at least 200 yards. The last time IUP gained more than 200 yards on the ground and lost was against Youngstown State in 1999.
On Saturday, the Crimson Hawks take on Cheyney, a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1979. The Wolves gave up 363 passing yards last week in a win over Lincoln, which might suggest Cignetti and his staff are likely to air it out this week.
But Cignetti said the flow of the game will dictate the play calling more than anything.
"I think week to week the game plan evolves and changes," he said. "But there are things, things that you do well, that you'll have to do every week."
KROUT IS OUT: Cignetti said Kole Krout has been ruled out of this week's game at Cheyney, but he didn't know the long-term prognosis for the starting free safety.
Krout suffered a knee injury on the opening kickoff against SCSU and did not return. Cignetti said Krout has had an MRI done, but as of Tuesday afternoon, the team had not been given the results yet.
Chris Brown will start in Kraut's spot on Saturday. Cignetti said Brown played well after being thrust into the lineup against SCSU.
"He did well," Cignetti said. "He went in there and understood what his job was and he executed. He didn't have any significant busts."
IMPRESSIVE START: Among the many players who had standout games on Saturday in the season opener, one that might get overlooked was kicker Brett Ullman.
The sophomore booted a 42-yard field goal and four extra points. What's most impressive is that three of his four PAT kicks actually left the playing field at Miller Stadium: They cleared a chain-link fence that surrounds the running track around the turf.
In addition, three of Ullman's six kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks.
In his 11-game college career, Ullman is 37-for-38 on extra points and 11 of 12 on field goals.
"Brett's a really good kicker and I have a lot of confidence in him." Cignetti said. "He's a really good kicker."