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Wilczynski: Will the real TCNJ D please stand up?

November 14, 2009

For anyone with a vested interest in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, Frank Wilczynski might be one of the group’s collectively worst kept secrets. If it’s true—the first available supporting evidence to be released when the conference dishes out post-season awards—it’s for good reason.

The Rowan quarterback’s 2009 campaign doesn’t fit the bill of an accomplishment that should be kept hush-hush. But even for the program, maybe hoping his capabilities catch opposition by surprise, keeping his successes under raps just isn’t practical.

Not numbers like his.

His 233.9 yards of total offense accumulated during every appearance are good for third in the NJAC, inferior statistically to only two conference competitors (No. 1 Graci, Brockport-288.3 yds/gm, No. 2 James, TCNJ-236.3 yds/gm). He’s completed 57% of his season’s 179 attempts, averaging just over 12 yards for every successful connection—worth, together, over 1,200 yards in nine games (152.25 avg. yds/gm).

Rowan play-callers have learned to expect these glimmers of above average adequacy when Frank Wilczynski drops back to pass. But for the amusement of fans, and a workout for statistician’s fingers, coaches are well-aware of the senior’s niche.

The Prof’s electric signal-caller might have only carried the rock 80 times on the year, but he’s produced with remarkable efficiency on his few opportunities—something to the tune of, oh, say, 8.2 yards a pop. Speaking relatively, the only other conference performers with that kind of average production are, coincidentally, two athletes listed at different positions (Tariq Gaines WR, Rowan; Bill Picatagi WR/TE, TCNJ).

Neither of the two rushed more than 26 times in 2009.

Multi-faceted, indeed, Wilczynski’s versatility is apparent in his irrevocable stats and the attention his presence demands.

But, fittingly for an athlete of his elite flight, limiting his role to that of a dual-threat playmaker—a commonality in this day and age—sells his abilities short.

He’s also proven one hell of a reliable litmus test for NJAC defenses.

The Profs early-season loss to SUNY-Cortland aside (Wilczynski DNP), the distinct contrast between his performances parallels that of opposing unit’s measurable caliber. In the team’s six wins, all against arguable cupcakes, Rowan’s reveled QB dazzled, averaging more than a first-down every rushing attempt (11.06 yds/rush) and just six yards shy of a guaranteed 100 every time he took the field (avg. 94 rush yds/gm).

Against those same teams, Wilczynski completed 59.8% of his balls, including a three-week span during which he connected no fewer than 67% of the time (vs. Brockport, Western Connecticut St., Morrisville St.). Sure, he threw for 148 every time out (13.31 yds/comp), but Wilczynski personally accounted for an average of more than three touchdowns in those games.

Remember what he did in Week 5? I can’t…it was something like 216 pass yards, another 146 on the ground—maybe six combined scores (3 pass, 3 rush)?

I’ll have to run those figures by Western Connecticut State. They’d know better (Rowan def. WCSU, 72-12).

But, as a brief aside, it should be noted that those teams—Lycoming, William Paterson, Brockport, Western Connecticut State, Morrisville State and Buffalo State—yeah, they’re win percentage wasn’t too hot in 2009.

Try 28% (combined 15-40).

And wouldn’t you know it, those NJAC units round out the bottom half of the conference’s worst groups against the run. William Paterson aside, they haven’t fared any better against opposing passers (rank No. 5-8, 10 vs. pass).

His prowess with the football is documented—on paper and opponents’ post-game thoughts. It just hasn’t been as profound against the conference’s top dogs.

In his last two appearances, both Rowan losses, F-Dubs had a combined 29 carries against Kean and Montclair State, but only manufactured 89 yards (3.16 yds/rush). He threw for 235 against the Red Hawks’ No. 6 pass defense (opp. avg. 196.4 pass yds/gm), but it required a heavy workload of 39 attempts.

Further, in neither game did he complete over 50% of his passes (43% vs. Kean, 49% vs. MSU) and threw only one touchdown to ease the blow of his three picks (8 TDs, 2 INT in other 6 gms).

“He’s been up and down, but he’s definitely the key,” TCNJ head coach Eric Hamilton said respectfully of the team’s pending adversary.

“His strength is running the ball, running the option. Last year I thought he was the best quarterback in the conference. … Did he have the year he wanted? Maybe not, because he didn’t throw the ball as well as he probably would have liked. But I’ll tell you this… even though they’re not in the hunt they have and he has played some people tough. They’re a good team.”

Wilczynski could be susceptible to a stout front-seven, maybe even the conference’s best gauge in that regard. Problem is, for TCNJ’s defense, they haven’t passed a number of early-season inspections.

The group has managed to corral most opposing rushing quarterbacks.

FDU slasher Bill Winters gained 69 yards on 15 carries. But 31 of those were earned against TCNJ second-team players (TCNJ def. FDU 58-28). The TCNJ D gave up 71 yards on nine carries to Brockport’s Jake Graci, but Buffalo State QB Kenny Murphy actually lost two yards on his five carries in the Lions’ season-opener.

Formidable accomplishments, for sure. But none came against a player of his stature.

And, after allowing five teams to rush break the 200-yard barrier—two individual contributors (Kean’s Chunn-209 yds, 2 TDs; WPU’s McKinney-224 yds, 4 TDs)—if there were ever a time for the TCNJ defense to prove itself, now is it.

“This is the last test of the year. We’ll find out what we’re made of,” defensive coordinator Matt Hamilton said of his No. 6 rush defense in the conference.

“We made a lot of progress over the course of the year—especially from the mid-way point on. But this week was definitely a let-down for us as a collective unit,” he said, alluding to the 388 yards garnered by Western Connecticut State (total offense 9th in NJAC).

Disheartening, maybe. But it hasn’t been all bad for this much-maligned TCNJ defense.

Three times has the unit held opposing backfields to fewer than 140 total rushing yards—many of the others skewed by meaningless gains toward the tail end of blowout wins, like Morrisville State’s 189 team yards during a 67-34 rout (59 in 1st half). It’s even happened with TCNJ on the wrong end of a lopsided finish (WPU-76 rush yds in 1st half; 209 in game).

The group gave up only 116 against FDU-Florham (74 in 1st half), another 130 to Western Connecticut State, and—its brightest resume buffer—32 against Montclair State University.

For now, early-season ups and downs are trivial matters. All that remains is Rowan.

And all its storied name implies.

“It’s Rowan. You know they’ve got the athletes. Big, fast, strong—you fill in the adjective. They’re all of it. But we think we’re pretty well-prepared. We’ve watched film for countless hours and the staff, we’ve watched every game they’ve played multiple times.

“We couldn’t possibly show them everything, but we feel we’ve prepared them as best as anyone could.”

And according to players, they say they approve.

“I feel where we’re at, we’re about the same place as Montclair State, and that was probably our best defensive performance,” rookie linebacker Greg Burns said.

“[Wilczynski]’s probably better than [Montclair State quarterback Tim Fischer], but our defense is ready, I feel really confident in the scheme and everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Still young and ambitious, Burns believes the unit fans saw take the field against Montclair State is the one that should be expected Saturday. And it’s because he thinks that’s the norm, whereas the rest of its shortcomings were anomalies.

Not the other way around.

“I think you’re going to see the real deal this weekend.”

Xs and Os aside, other players focused efforts on different dimensions of their game.

“[Wilczynski] puts the pants on just like anyone else,” defensive end and quad-captain Craig Meyer said.

“We’re going to come out and smack him.”



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