Steve lewis/Durango Herald
The hole was dug too deep. The ticks left on the clock too few.
The Fort Lewis College football team, try as it might, couldn’t quite summit the peak presented by Western New Mexico in Saturday’s 42-34 loss, falling short after turning the ball over on downs in the Mustangs’ territory with less than a minute remaining.
But it wasn’t all showers and thunderstorms for the Skyhawks (0-3, 0-2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). They racked up 453 total yards, 405 coming from the arm of quarterback Tim Jenkins, who returned from injury and wasted little time shaking off the rust.
Jenkins’ 12-yard touchdown pass to Doyle Bode in the second quarter ended a nine-quarter scoreless streak to start the season, and FLC hung twice as many points on the Mustangs as it did last year.
“It’s the only game I’ve ever played in where I didn’t feel like I lost; I just felt that we ran out of time because we were clicking so well,” Jenkins said.
The upside for the Skyhawks is that the offense finally is starting to click. The downside lies in who’s coming to town next: CSU-Pueblo – No. 3 CSU-Pueblo, to be exact.
The ThunderWolves (4-0, 2-0 RMAC) are coming off a shutout of an improved Adams State team, one in which they forced seven Grizzlies’ turnovers. FLC can’t afford those mistakes against a CSU-Pueblo team that loves to eat huge chunks of possession with a ground game averaging a league-best 241.5 yards.
“This is not by any stretch of the imagination an easy week for us on offense,” FLC head coach Cesar Rivas-Sandoval said at Thursday’s practice. “We’ve got a bigger challenge this week than we had last week, and it’s just going to keep getting harder.”
But there are areas FLC can exploit, areas the Skyhawks call “green grass,” as in the space they think they can take advantage of after watching film. The ThunderWolves allow an average of 311.8 passing yards per game, although they’ll likely be geared up against the pass given FLC’s struggles in the ground game the last couple of seasons.
Having a healthy Jenkins, who missed all of the Northern Arizona game, back in rhythm is a huge plus given his knowledge of the offense and rapport with the receivers.
Case in point: Nine different FLC receivers caught passes last week, with both Bode and Amery Duncan going for more than 100 yards.
“I hope everyone’s happy I’m back,” Jenkins said, laughing. “Especially the guys up front. We communicate so well that when the other guys got thrown in there, it was a little bit different for them. Me and the receivers, from being here the whole summer, really mesh well.”
Jenkins’ grasp of the offense is so good that Rivas occasionally allows him to call the plays himself, particularly in key hurry-up situations to save time and stay moving.
“I let him call a lot of stuff on the field. It’s not like he’s just shooting from his hip. We spend hours and hours and hours every day watching film together and going over our game plan,” Rivas said.
Now, can the Skyhawks keep it going? The difference between putting a scare into or even upsetting the ThunderWolves depends on FLC’s snowball effect.
Will FLC keep rolling downhill, getting stronger along the way, or will the Skyhawks melt and cease to advance?
“Once you get that first one, it kind of seems they just roll from there. It’s a lot easier getting that second one than the first one,” Jenkins said.