Football trying to turn season around
By Carl Stoffers
The Kean University football program has endured adversity in the past. The program suffered decades of mediocrity before it shed its losing image after being turned around by head coach Dan Garrett. Now, with the Cougars in the basement of the New Jersey Athletic Conference standings with a 1-4 record, Garrett isn’t ready to throw in the towel.
“We’ve got to keep fighting,” he said, after his team’s 7-0 loss to The College of New Jersey on Oct. 11. “We’ve been here before. I’ve been here before, when no one thought Kean football could ever win. So, I’m going to keep staying the course and doing what we believe in. I told them I’m not going to quit on them. I’ve got twenty seniors who are going to give me everything they’ve got, so I’m not giving in.”
Kean football is in danger of registering its first non-winning season since 2005, the year before Garrett took the reigns. The Cougars dropped two of the first three games on the 2013 schedule, including a 34-7 thrashing in Union by nationally-ranked Mary-Hardin Baylor, as well as conference games to SUNY Cortland and The College of New Jersey.
Despite the tough schedule, Garrett hasn’t seen any lack of effort from his team.
“We’ve got great kids,” he said. “Great kids who want to work, who want to win. Right now, we’re just not putting enough points on the board to do that.”
Offensive production has been a concern all season and the injury to starting quarterback Christian Bailoni has hindered the process. Bailoni left in the second half of Kean’s 17-7 loss to SUNY Cortland with a separated shoulder and missed the TCNJ game, yielding starting duties to sophomore Robert Meade. He’s currently listed as week-to-week.
“Any time you lose your starting quarterback, you’re going to take a step back. But we have a lot of confidence in Robbie Meade,” Garrett said after the TCNJ loss. “He’s a very talented young man, and he brings a different dimension.”
Meade has been solid in his limited play this season, logging 16 completions in 26 attempts with just one interception. He engineered a 93-yard drive in the final minutes of
Kean’s loss to TCNJ, only to have it stall on the Lions’ 1-yard line.
“He took us right down the field,” Garrett said of the 15-play drive. “But we didn’t get it in in the end. Again, it’s about execution.”
Injuries have also hit Kean hard on the defensive side of the ball, with key defensive back LeRon Dillard possibly lost for the season with an MCL/ACL knee injury. Dillard’s injury is a blow to a secondary that has snagged six interceptions this season and been strong point of the Cougar defensive attack.
Kean continues its NJAC conference play at home Oct. 19 vs. William Paterson (2-3), where they will look to turn their season around. Coach Garrett summed up his team’s approach simply.
“We’re trying to find something to turn things around,” he said. “Right now, we’re being tested. I believe things happen for a reason, and we’ve just got to fight.”