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Matty’s Monday Morning Mailbag: Chances of the Lions loss in a post-bye skid?

September 14, 2009

Every Monday, I’ll take a minute to respond to you — Lions’ Nation — answering questions and offering my predictions and insight surrounding the team’s 2009 campaign. Here’s this week’s installment of Matty’s Monday Morning Mailbag.

The Lions may have been idle on the schedule last week, enjoying a bye before its match up this weekend against FDU-Florham, but that hasn’t stopped readers from submitting their most pressing curiosities. Let’s get this party started…

  • Matty, Fairleigh Dickinson University isn’t listed on the NJAC’s web site for competitors in the conference–they’re a member of D3’s Middle Atlantic Conference. One loss isn’t going to kill your season, but why even schedule the game when it can’t even help you win your group? What’s the point?

The simple answer would be, “well, why not?” but I’ll refrain from giving into that temptation. Fact of the matter is there’s plenty to benefit from penciling in a non-conference opponent.

The Lions offense has benefited from bye weeks in recent history, averaging 47.5 PPG following its last two rest periods

The Lions offense has benefited from bye weeks in recent history, averaging 47.5 PPG following its last two rest periods

Aside from enriching your program with tradition by fostering an out-of-conference rivalry, non-conference competition does wonders for a team’s post-season preparations. Most conferences, in D3 as well as D1 and so on, have a characteristic offensive philosophy. In the case of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), that happens to be the spread. Now, there’s no question that different personnel options and distinctive play-calling strategies within an otherwise all-encompassing shotgun attack show its teams a number of different looks throughout the course of the season. Sure the spread’s become increasingly popular in recent years, but that’s not the lone offensive philosophy in the country–not even close.

So what happens in the playoffs–and unless you’re the general manager of the Denver Nuggets you’d like to think your team can get there–when all of a sudden, you’re hit with a balanced pro-style offense or a triple option rush attack? You can game plan all you want, but there’s a clear distinction between studying and taking the test itself. And that late in the game, you can’t afford seek refuge in “learning from your mistakes.” In the playoffs, it’s one and done.

Another implicit benefit of hosting non-conference competition is its inevitable role as a barometer of your team’s relative success. Let’s say–which won’t be the case as long as Rowan and others are members–the NJAC has a soft year. The Lions run the table, win the conference, and expect a high seed in the NCAA D3 Playoffs. Depending on what everyone else does, the team may not be awarded as high a starting spot as they’d like–especially if they’re the lone representative from the conference and the tournament’s scheduling body hasn’t seen them shake it up with foreign opponents. The same is true for the converse, as a team with a pedestrian regular season record could benefit from a dominating an opponent outside its conference.

That’s why big-time football schools, the USCs face off against the nation’s Ohio States on a yearly basis. That’s also a reason–among more, eh hem, financial considerations–that Notre Dame isn’t even in a major D1 conference.

  • Well, that’s fine and good but the team lost last year, didn’t they? How is that going to help, should the squad make the post-season?

It’s well-noted that the team did drop last year’s contest against the Devils, a 41-42 nail-biter ending on a late touchdown that culminated an impressive nine play, 67 yard two-minute drill that left the Lions only :13 to answer before the final horn sounded. But historically, the team’s fared quite well against the Devils. Not so well to justify it as a “gimme,” but a contest that the Lions’ coaching staff had to feel good about entering the week.

Since it began in 2005, the Lions have edged the Devils three of the series’ four meetings by an average margin of 24.6 , while lighting up the scoreboard for a total average of 39 PPG. Not too shabby–especially in recognition of the team’s 2007 rout of its artificial MAC rival, 53-7. Especially after gradually terminating perennial play against its only other non-conference opponents in 2007 to accommodate for the NJAC’s continuous expansion (La Salle, formerly D1 FCS-disbanded program; Muhlenberg D3, Centennial) the Lions need to foster this relationship to maintain credibility with the NCAA. Especially when it’s so dominant against this particular foe.

  • There’s been talk of a noted effort to keep the team focused coming off of the bye, hopefully preventing a let-down game against what you call a winnable game. How concerned should we–the fans–be on the 18th?

There’s no question that every coaching staff must imprint its players with the “stay hungry” football sermons during

image courtesy of StylusMagazine.com

image courtesy of StylusMagazine.com

this idle week–its an absolute necessity. Especially in lieu of the team’s second-half dominance of Buffalo State, an ensuing emotional rollercoaster could derail the team’s quest for a pristine regular season record–if not slap an “L” next to what easily could have been a “W”–the disparity between opening a Golden Girls calendar, surprised to find its not the 12-month planner of girls in golden bikinis.

That said, let me tuck these concerns in to bed for a long, long slumber. It’s just never been an issue for head coach Eric Hamilton‘s Lions. Since reinstituting bye weeks on the team’s schedule (staggered season-opener from 2003-06) the Lions’ record indicates the team doesn’t suffer from any post-vacation jet lag–especially the offense. In addition to 2007’s romp of FDU–which followed the bye–the Lions’ offense decimated the Buffalo State Bengals’ D, en route to a comfy 42-32 win in 2008.

Sure anything’s possible, but if you’re the type to get caught up in stat books and “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately”s, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the team blowing the team’s first game in 13 days–at least not because of its time off.

***

That’s it for this week’s edition of 4M.

To see your questions answered,fill out the form below:

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