Curt Cignetti quickly admits he is not reaching for the panic button, and neither should you, if you care about the fortunes of the IUP football team.
Coming off an embarrassing 26-point loss to Slippery Rock three days earlier, the third-year IUP coach used his weekly news conference Tuesday to cast aside any notions that the team is in turmoil. It is not, he insists. Instead, it is moving on.
“You have to use it as a positive, constructively,” Cignetti said. “You can’t forget why it happened and how it felt. You have to make the adjustments that need to be made and then you need to move forward.”
So that’s what the Crimson Hawks (5-1) are doing. They are not dwelling on the 42-16 setback. Instead, they are using it as motivation as they prepare for Saturday’s home game against Edinboro (3-3).
“We have a lot of guys who are embarrassed and use it as an opportunity to improve one day at a time, take a step forward and do a self-evaluation of why it happened,” he said. “Without looking at anyone else but yourself. OK? Why did you perform not as well as you should have and usually do? What happened from Thursday night to Saturday at two o’clock? Did you get yourself ready on Thursday night? Did you get yourself ready on Friday night?
“Now, in saying that … I think Slippery Rock played their A-plus game. We did some things that sort of helped what happened, you know? … We played our ‘D’ game; they played their ‘A’ game. This is what can happen in football. You’ve got to be ready to go and play your best every Saturday, because if you’re not, this can happen, especially against a good team, and Slippery Rock is a good team.”
The Crimson Hawks thought they were a good team when they went to Slippery Rock, and it would be understandable if they now questioned those beliefs. But Cignetti said he isn’t throwing in the towel, waving the white flag or any other overused metaphor.
And he’s not using this week to make changes to the program’s daily operations or anything like that. Cignetti wants the Crimson Hawks to understand that making changes is a sign of panic, and there’s no reason for that after just one loss.
“What we’ve done was successful down there where I came from and it was successful here,” said Cignetti, who was an assistant at Alabama from 2007 to 2010. “I’m not going to make any radical changes. That would be hitting the panic button, which I’m not going to do.”
Cignetti did make two changes to the depth chart, though: True freshman Ethan Cooper will replace junior Matt Sasson at right guard, and Jeff Palmer will replace Michael Larrow at defensive tackle.
Cignetti said the change was made at right guard because Sasson hadn’t quite adjusted to the move from center after he broke his hand in the season opener.
“His natural position is center, and with the cast on his hand, he just struggled a little bit physically,” Cignetti said.
Palmer takes over for Larrow after the former Rutgers transfer was suspended for one game for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
“Palmer’s been playing well, and he gives us a lot of effort,” Cignetti said. “Larrow has been suspended for a week, and I’ll review his status on Sunday.”
Otherwise, Cignetti doesn’t want his team feeling any anxiety after Saturday’s loss. It was a rough day that cannot be changed, and that’s the only way the Crimson Hawks can handle it if they want their season to be a good one.
“We just ran into a buzz saw,” he said. “They were clicking on all cylinders, but we contributed to it. … We’ll see how important it is to everyone to be in the boat and pull together as a team and be successful. I have confidence that’ll happen. So this is an opportunity. Right now, the goal is to improve today, to stay focused today and improve today.”