Visiting San Diego didn’t waste any time in extending a welcome to the Stetson Hatters from the Pioneer Football League.
The defending PFL champions needed just 100 seconds to score the first points of the day at soggy Spec Martin Stadium, and the Toreros never looked back in rolling to a 59-0 victory over the Hatters in front of an announced crowd of 5,874 fans.
San Diego improved to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the PFL while the Hatters fell to 1-3 and 0-1 with their third consecutive loss.
San Diego was so dominant in the first half, building a 35-0 lead while piling up an even 400 yards of total offense, that the only bright spots for Stetson were the two turnovers the Hatters forced. Ryan Powers’ interception of a Mason Mills pass and Darius Chapes’ recovery of a fumbled punt only slowed the Toreros momentarily.
“As a competitor, you don’t want to believe that it is going to go the way that it did today,” Stetson coach Roger Hughes said. “Clearly, they beat us in every facet of the game. It is still about fundamentals – blocking, tackling, not turning the ball over, running your routes to the proper place, being in the right coverage and in the right gaps. When you play good people, they expose your weaknesses.”
San Diego exposed the Hatters is every facet of the game. So dominant were the Toreros when they had the ball that they were never forced to punt. San Diego had 31 first downs to just 10 for Stetson while the Toreros piled up 624 yards of offense to just 161 for the Hatters.
The running back trio of Kenn James (13 carries for 147 yards, one touchdown), Joe Ferguson (6-94-2) and Tyler Tony (14-64-1) had little trouble moving the ball through the Stetson defense. At the same time Mills was close to perfect, completing 18 of 20 passes for 269 yards and two scores, both to Brandon White in the first half.
While the Toreros moved the ball with ease, Stetson managed just 89 yards of offense in the first half and managed just six first downs.
The second half didn’t get much better for the Hatters, who turned the ball over four times – twice on interceptions and twice on fumbles, including on the opening kickoff of the half.
San Diego took advantage of those mistakes, turning short fields into points three times. Only late in the game, after Stetson fumbled to end its best drive of the day, did the Toreros take pity. San Diego drove to the Hatters’ one yard line before taking a delay of game and then kneeling on the ball twice to run out the clock.
“I told the team after the game that I am not going to rip them because, if you are a competitor, this hurts bad enough,” Hughes said. “As a coach, intellectually you know there are going to be times that you are out-manned when you start a program with all freshmen. I am looking forward to having two years in the weight room as we go through this.
“This is what we have right now. I don’t think our kids gave up. They continued to play hard because they have a lot of pride and they want to do things the right way. As a coach you want to reinforce that and continue to work to get better.”
Statistically for the Hatters, there were few bright spots. Fullback Cole Mazza and backup quarterback Jonathan Jerozal led the team in rushing with 20 yards each. Jerozal, who saw significant playing time in the game, completed 6-of-10 passes for 51 yards with one interception. Starting QB Ryan Tentler completed 6-of-15 throws for 33 yards and was also intercepted once.
“I think the turnovers are a combination of experience, trying to do too much, and not focusing on the fundamentals and the little things that you have to do,” Hughes said. “A lot of those mistakes are simply because the kids are pressing too hard trying to make a play. As a coach, you like that attitude. With experience, you hope those mistakes go down.
“The bottom line is that we have to grow up faster that time allows. We can’t wait for chronological age, we have to get older mentally faster. That is what I have been preaching to the team. I think this, although it stinks to get beaten the way that we did, I hope this serves as a wake-up call and a reinforcement for what we have been telling them as a coaching staff.”
Defensively, Donald Payne once again led the way for Stetson with 12 total tackles, including 1 ½ for losses. No one else had more than five stops. Patrick Cone and Dave Lazear were both credited with sacks in the game and Bobby Jakubek had two tackles for loss.
The Hatters will have another big challenge ahead next weekend when they go on the road in league play for the first time. Stetson will venture north to Indianapolis for a date with another of the three 2012 co-champions in the Pioneer Football League, Butler. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-0) are coming off a 45-27 victory at Jacksonville.
• For the second time this season, Stetson had a kickoff return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
• Two Hatters made their first starts against San Diego. Chase Coleman started on defense and Calvin Armatas started on offense.
• Ryan Powers recorded his first career interception for the Hatters in the first quarter.
• Keegan Tanner was credited with a forced fumble on a hit he made on San Diego punt returner Sam Hoekstra.
• The Hatters had at least two players leave the game with injuries on Saturday. Defensive lineman Zack Boryla was helped from the field late in the first half and did not return. Defensive back Chase Coleman also had to leave the field after getting attention from trainers in the second half. Neither injury appeared to be serious.
• Stetson punter James LaGamma had a pretty good day, averaging 40.4 yards on seven punts with a long of 53. San Diego had just 21 yards on returns.