We’re not allowed to accept bribes here at the Tribune-Star.
But when first-year Rose-Hulman football coach Jeff Sokol promised to buy me the beverage of my choice if his team defeats Hanover for homecoming Saturday at Cook Stadium, my ears perked up.
Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. for the 63rd meeting of these NCAA Division III colleges. It also will be the 2011 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) opener for Rose.
The Engineers have not endured a losing season since 2004. But they’ve opened this season at 0-2, causing Sokol to admit they’re desperate for a win.
“We’re all very hungry for a victory,” he said after practice Thursday. “We all want to taste victory really, really bad.”
Rose-Hulman has lost at home to DePauw 23-13 and lost at Kalamazoo (Mich.) 43-22, with a bye week sandwiched between those games.
Sokol noticed some good and some bad in the two setbacks.
“Our D [defense] played great in our first game against DePauw,” he mentioned. “Our D allowed only nine points to their offense in that game.
“Kyle Kovach’s performance at Kalamazoo [which included 221 rushing yards and 359 all-purpose yards] was outstanding. Our punter, Eric Schaible, has been a rock for us so far.”
There’s been negative too.
“In general, our offense has had a slow start in both games,” Sokol pointed out. “We’ve put the ball on the ground early on. We’re trying different things [in practice] to try to fix that. We’ll need to have a much better start on offense in order to beat Hanover.”
Beating the Panthers will not be an easy task, Sokol emphasized. He named junior middle linebacker Andy Dalton (not the same guy as the Cincinnati Bengals’ rookie quarterback), senior safety Rory Mannering, sophomore quarterback Dexter Britt and senior left tackle Matt Money as Hanover players to watch.
“They’re going to bring some athletes and they’re very well-coached,” Sokol noted. “So it’s going to be a significant challenge.”
On the flip side, Hanover might find trying to contain the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Kovach (fourth in the nation in Division III all-purpose yards per game at 237.0) a challenge. The Panthers have lost at home to Centre 38-31, lost at Thomas More 44-13 and won at home over HCAC foe Defiance 37-12.
Despite Sokol’s respect for the Hanover, he’s not planning any “panic” changes in his team’s approach for Saturday.
“We’re going to keep doing our thing,” he insisted. “We’re just going to try to do it better than we’ve been doing… Our players are ready and confident.”
Sounds good. I can taste that chocolate milk shake already.
David Hughes can be reached after 4 p.m. by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or (812) 231-4276; by e-mail at email@example.com; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.