By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
EWING — The Salisbury Sea Gulls thorough trouncing of The College of New Jersey Lions has extended TCNJ’s string of losses to four going into its bye week. A time for the team morale to rebuild on and off the field.
The frustration was in the voice of Lions head coach Casey Goff, as he talked about the day’s loss.
“We’re not feeling good, we’re not gonna feel good about a loss,” said Coach Goff. “There’s obvious improvements there, going against these guys 7-7 at the half, but we gotta hold it together, we gotta finish. We got to find a way to protect the football in the second half, we’ve got to get our defense off the field.”
Goff’s point is valid. The total possession favored Salisbury by about a six-minute margin, and there was a massive difference on the ground between the two teams. The Sea Gulls managed to rush for 209 yards in their triple-option attack, while the Lions landed deep in the negatives, having a -21 rushing yards in the game.
The Lions kept it competitive, particularly in the first half, with big passing plays that totaled 203 yards. In large part, this was a result of the efforts of wide receiver Thomas Koenig, who was out in last week’s game against Wesley College. The Lions had 203 passing yards with Koenig having a 142 receiving yards, dominating the offensive attack.
“It’s good to have him back,” Goff said. “Hopefully Ibn [Bailey] is alright. We had a couple guys who went down with cramps and some others issues so we’re gonna take a look at that and look to rebound with those guys.”
Goff’s mention of “Ibn” refers to wide receiver Ibn Bailey, who had the second-highest amount of receptions and passing yards with 3 receptions for 30 yards. Bailey went down during the fourth quarter, and following an injury timeout was taken off the field for the remainder of the game.
His injury status at the moment is unknown, but having one of their best wide receivers out could hurt the Lions given their reliance on passing.
In the past two years, the Lions have started off on similar losing streaks. In 2015, they managed to rally and go on a four-game winning streak, ending the season with a respectable record of 4-4.
It wasn’t quite as pretty in 2016, where the losses snowballed into an abysmal 7-game losing streak and a record that ended with a 2-8 mark.
The Lions are a mixed bag. They’re dominate in the passing, but can’t get anything started on the ground. Wide receivers have recovered, while others have been injured, and even historical precedent leaves their fate ambiguous. Montclair State, their Oct. 7 opponent after their bye, could either be the turning point for the Lions or another nail in their coffin.
In the 2015 season, the Lions defeated the Red Hawks, but the Red Hawks gave it back to them in the 2016 season. This game may be the time to make it or break it, and in his first season, as head coach, Goff is determined to bring the Lions season back to life.
“Second half of the year, we got bye week, we’ve got games we feel are winnable,” Goff said. “We knew this was gonna be a real tough stretch, playing Frostburg State, Wesley, Salisbury, in a row so we’re refocused, we’re looking for wins. … We’re gonna be physical next week, we’re gonna put our guys in game situations, and we’re gonna work.”
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