When it comes to the debate of defense or offense, time, truly, is a flat circle. It’s Groundhog Day. It’s a broken record. It’s really any cliche phrase for a moment in time which continues to repeat itself.
Defense, in all sports at any level, continues, time and time again, to not receive the same love and attention as the offense does. Hey, there’s no windmill dunks on defense, right? No 450-foot home runs, and certainly no Hail Mary passes as time expires.
But in the case of Springfield College football’s defense, that doesn’t matter. Because when Nick Giorgio swallows up a trembling quarterback, or when Marlowe Scott wraps his fingers around and errant pass and brings it in for an interception, or when Dom Traversa and Christian Zotti swarm on upon a running back like wolves chasing their prey, you don’t need home runs or slam dunks.
You have the reason why the Pride are undefeated.
Yes, I see the irony here. In this very newspaper, I wrote 1,700 words analyzing and dissecting the jaw-dropping success of the offense’s triple-option. This column isn’t intended to take away from that feature on the offense, and vice versa.
But I’m not the first to call for defensive recognition. Earlier this season, I sat in head coach Mike Cerasuolo’s offense. We discussed the performance of his team’s offense, and how his rushing attack was looking just a month into the season. The Pride were coming off three straight games in which they allowed 23 total points.
In the midst of discussing the fine details of his offense, he stopped me, and reminded me how talented his defense was. Yes, the former offensive coordinator, the man who’s worked tirelessly to make this rushing attack as strong as it is, stuck up for the defense, first.
Just days later, a rival NEWMAC coach argued that Springfield’s defense was the reason for their then-and-still undefeated record, and even lauded them as a top-10 defense nationwide.
Maybe they were on to something back in early October. Because here we stand, two days away from Springfield’s tenth and final regular season game. The Pride have nine wins in hand now, and it’s easy to look down the schedule and be awed by the point totals – including three games in which they eclipsed 60.
But look at the games in which Springfield allowed just three points to Norwich. Or seven to WPI. Or eight to Kean. Or none to Maine Maritime.
Or even the first game of the season against Western New England – the game that started the run. The Pride fell behind early, and trailed 14-0 at the half. The offense went on to score an impressive 35 second-half points.
But would that be possible without the defense holding a nationally ranked team, one that was touted so highly because of its offense, to just seven points in the second half?
I’ll answer that: it wouldn’t be. Hell, the final touchdown of the game came when Zotti recovered a Golden Bear fumble in the endzone. If that didn’t seal the win, Scott’s interception of Anthony Service just minutes later sure did.
I could go on, telling tales of moments in which the defense stepped up this year. There’s no shortage of examples. The numbers do speak for themselves. Springfield is allowing just 11.9 points per game. The Pride have scored four defensive touchdowns, allowed just 90 rushing yards per game, and have a conference-high 28 sacks, led by Giorgio’s 7.5.
This Saturday at noon on Stagg Field, Springfield will score points. Plenty of points. At this point, that’s a given. But the defense will be facing MIT, and the best passing attack it’s seen all season. The Engineers lead the NEWMAC with 213.6 passing yards per game, They’re averaging 32.5 points per game.
But do you know who else is averaging 32.5 points per game? WPI. Springfield held them to seven. Merchant Marine is actually averaging 32.8. Springfield held them to 13.
While there will be dreams of a dramatic shootout for the conference championship, we won’t get on. The offense will do its job. It will put on a rushing clinic, and leave the Engineers defense discouraged and out of breath, as it’s left its previous nine opponents.
The defense, too, will do it’s job. Giorgio and Joel Sodenine will penetrate the offensive line, and leave MIT’s Udgam Goyal head spinning behind center. Scott and Johnny Bianchi will patrol the defensive backfield like a well-trained military force.
There won’t be a shootout. Just like there aren’t any slam dunks or home runs.
There will just be an undefeated record.