Pioneers rest up during bye week

Patrick Rivers
Asst. Sports Editor

Last week, the Utica College football team had a bye. Coming off of two consecutive losses, the bye may be well needed. Head coach Blaise Faggiano remains excited about the remainder of the season.
“We are sitting at 4-4 right now. Heading into the bye week, I want to see how they respond,” Faggiano said. “These guys have to recognize that we still have an opportunity to make history by posting a winning season.”
Last year, the Pioneers finished the year 7-4. The program has never had back-to-back winning seasons; therefore, if this year’s team finishes with two more wins, history will be made. Faggiano says one of the main priorities coming into the bye week is to heal up. Starting quarterback Teddy VanGalen and starting running back Ryan Burnett are each battling injuries and look to be back at 100 percent coming off the bye.
The question is, what do the Pioneers need to do to ensure they will come out victorious in the ensuing matchups against Alfred University and Hartwick College?
Junior linebacker Juwan Wilson is completely confident in his team’s abilities, but wants the guys to work harder.
“I just think we have to be more consistent,” he said. “Which starts with practice. We have two weeks to work on executing, there should be no excuses come Saturday.”
The entire football organization here at UC fully believes they could be undefeated right now. The thought is, the team has beaten themselves on each occasion. This is not just a pride-based statement, as the Pioneers were subject to a few unfortunate mishaps in each of their four losses. Whether it be turnovers, unsuccessful trips to the red zone, penalties, or allowing big plays through defensive breakdowns or special teams, UC’s season outcome could be completely different had they cleaned up their play.
Coach Faggiano is honest when he says, “we still haven’t played our best game and we’re eight games in.”
The foundation of that statement derives from the sloppy play that has them sitting at .500 on the year. There is an old saying, “Practice makes perfect,” which resembles why this bye week is vital in terms of the success of the team. Having yet to play their best game, UC is looking forward to getting back out onto the field proving their abilities as a whole.
Running back Nicodemus Gambill believes despite the four losses, the team remains in good shape.
“We still have an opportunity at a bowl game,” he said. “We could get a ring and make history at the same time.”
The overall goal coming into the season was to win an Empire 8 championship, and although that goal is now unattainable, the Pioneers are fortunate to be in the position they are in now. With two very winnable games remaining, it is up to the team to focus in on what they want to achieve and take care of business.
Furthermore, a successful season can be very enticing for new recruits coming into the school next fall. A winning season will set a new mark in history right on time for the tuition decrease and the opening of our new facilities. The UC football program will benefit greatly from Time Warner Cable Sports Network’s broadcast of the nail-biter victory over Ithaca.
Yet, for now, they will focus on defeating Alfred. The game is set for Saturday Nov. 7, 2015 at Alfred University at 1 p.m.