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Players, coaches defend TCNJ quarterback following loss to Willie P

October 18, 2009

WAYNE, NJ–During the madness immediately following any loss, it seems that all too often, tempers have a funny tendency to flare up.

With the range of player sentiment distributed between ill-tempered peaks, emotionally drained troughs, and variations of either scattered everywhere in between, past experience teaches us that mouths tend to shoot off harsh, uncensored words of criticism without warning—sometimes without warranting.

Take a pill as tough to swallow as Saturday’s inexcusable let-down against William Paterson, one coinciding with a quarterback’s second disappointing performance in as many tries against a top defensive unit in the conference—it’s likely that he’ll be the one to end up in the crosshairs.

But while the Lions might be moaning behind closed doors, nestling into their recliners for their season’s second rant as armchair quarterbacks, they’re outwardly protecting their own.

“We weren’t giving Chris James enough time to make the plays,” TCNJ running back Justin Donoloski said, in defense of his leader’s dismal outing, during which the four-year starter completed only 14 of his 34 passes for 189 yards and an interception—a circus spectacle in the form of a slip screen-gone-awry, still ultimately returned to the TCNJ one-yard line to set up a game-tying touchdown in the second quarter (McKinney 1-yd rush; tied score at 14 w/ 3:47 remaining in half).

Though he contributed two touchdowns to the team’s 28-point final tally, James couldn’t manage to establish a rhythm in the Lions’ passing game, half of an offense that was held to a season-low 294 yards and converted only 4 of its 14 third-down attempts Saturday night.

William Paterson represented James’ second acquaintance with one of the conference’s best defensive units this season (Wm Paterson ranked 1st in pass efficiency defense). The other? His date with Kean University during TCNJ’s Week Five road loss, an awfully similar outcome with eerily reminiscent details (James 24/41, 234 yds, TD, 2 INT).

Coincidence? Maybe. Causation? Could be possible.

But the sophomore game-breaker for the Lions in the first half of 2009 didn’t point any disdainful fingers at others who hadn’t helped carry the same torch of fiery offensive illumination.

“There was a lot of pressure on him today, they brought the heat,” Donoloski said, describing the image seen through his eyes, accentuated with details in the form of three sacks and plenty of hurries, forcing rushed throws that often landed out of reach of wide-open receivers.

The team’s impact back didn’t offer any contradiction to his established reputation, accounting for 5.5 yards on each of his 18 attempts, finishing just one shy of the century mark. But he was quick to note what he could have done to better serve his team—and his quarterback.

“We didn’t block hard enough, we didn’t run the ball well enough and William Paterson was just the better team today.”

While Donoloski’s defense may have stemmed from player camaraderie, he wasn’t the only one to have James’ back following the game.

“I thought Chris played well,” TCNJ offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta said after the game.  “I just thought the breaks we needed, we didn’t get this week.”

Fully exhausting the fire starters on its NJAC schedule, TCNJ (4-2, 3-2 NJAC) now looks to reignite its early-season’s flames against Montclair State University (5-1, 5-0 NJAC), a soggy hunk of timber seated atop the conference totem pole (T-1st in NJAC). And Acosta believes its premise just might offer a potent enough spark.

“It’s our homecoming and [the rivalry] is very rich in tradition,” he said. “I’m sure our guys are going to show up for that.”

Now, with his team desperately writhing to regain momentum, the second-year play-caller insists his team needs to segment its remaining schedule with the hopes of tearing the envelope off of a post-season bid upon its finale.

“We just have to worry about winning each week. That’s our goal. If you’re taking care of business every week, the playoffs takes care of itself. We’ve got to treat next week as a playoff game.”

Acosta stood by the team charter following the loss, visibly irritated by the scores of missed opportunities wasted during a game his team should have won. But, emphasizing what his team needs to do to improve, Acosta offered a definitive affirmation that it can, and it will.

“We’ve got to be honest. If you’re honest, you get better and you evaluate what you do well and what you do poorly, you get better from it and you move on. We’re not going to get better by making excuses.”

Fully appropriating his own advice, the mastermind behind the Lions’ offensive juggernaut that still rounds out the NJAC’s top-two scoring beasts (avg. 42.5 ppg; Rowan avg. 44.3 ppg) spoke in no uncertain terms to describe what had happened just minutes earlier.

“They kicked our ass,” he said. “They outplayed us. You got to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Hey they outcoached us, outplayed us. There’s nothing we could do.’ There’s a winner and a loser for every game. And we were on the losing side tonight.”

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