Football wants to stop slow starts

By Frank Gogola

DeKalb | Football’s motto this season has been “Finish the fight,” and they have been able to finish all three of the fights they have been in this season.

After trailing the Iowa Hawkeyes by 7 in the season opener, the Idaho Vandals by 14 in the second game, and the Eastern Illinois Panthers (3-1) by 20 in their home opener, the Huskies (3-0) have proven they can finish the fight because they don’t panic.

For the second game in a row, the Huskies fell into a double-digit deficit early on and had no problem coming back.

“Basically, I was trying to settle down the defense — well, basically, the whole team,” said senior safety Jimmie Ward. “[I was] telling them to just have some composure about yourself. You know, it’s 20-0 — we came back other times in other games. Coach, I love his quote, he [said], ‘Finish the fight,’ but I think going into practice Tuesday, I think we need to start the fight and then finish the fight.”

The Huskies fell into a 20-0 hole against the Panthers less than halfway through the first quarter. However, they knew that there was more than enough time to complete a comeback.

“In football, you got four quarters,” said redshirt junior running back Cameron Stingily. “You have to finish strong. So when I saw we [were] down by 20, it didn’t really faze me. And when I looked on the sideline, people still had a smile on their face, laughing and joking, because we know there’s four quarters in the football game, it’s not just one.”

From there, the Huskies made adjustments on defense and were able to virtually stop the Panthers in their tracks for nearly 30 minutes of game.

“We tried to slow down the run first,” said head coach Rod Carey. “That was the first thing we had to do because you’ve got to get a player of that caliber [EIU senior quarterback Jimmy Garappolo] in situations where he’s going to pass, and then you can get after him some…He’s going to be playing on Sundays. So we made some good adjustments to go ahead and shut him down. I’m really pleased with the defense from an adjustment standpoint and being opportunistic.”

The Huskies posted 30 unanswered points and led 30-20 less than five minutes into the second half. They fell into a 39-36 hole with just under 10 minutes to play but did not panic. They finished the fight as they marched down the field a minute-and-a-half later and took a 43-39 lead that stood the rest of the game.

“You learn something about your team each game that you play,” Carey said. “And this one was similar to the Idaho [game] in that our guys just don’t panic, and we’re not gonna…Like Jimmie [Ward] said, we gotta start the fight now. We’re pretty good at finishing — we gotta start it.”