With the start of the 2012 season, Ferrum faced a strong Emory and Henry team that has enjoyed much recent success over the Panthers. Owning a win streak that dates back to 2007, The Wasps rolled into W.B. Adams stadium, intent on keeping the streak alive. In the end, they were able to keep that streak in tact, but this game, to me signaled a dramatic shift from past season openers for Ferrum. Today was different, and even though the Panthers started 0-1, this was the best loss I have ever seen.
Considering where the Panthers team thought it would be, and who they expected to return from last years squad, it became apparent in the off season that things were not turning out as they had anticipated. Some players from the 2011 team graduated, but several players who would have had a pivotal role on this years team, either transferred, or had other reasons for not returning to the 2012 team.
As this season's offense only had three returning starters, there was no question that this unit would be very young. Trying to gauge strengths and weaknesses is difficult with so many new faces. I was expecting them to need time to get their legs under them, and while I predicted a 30-20 loss, the offense made huge strides in their development, and should be proud of their effort.
Some real bright spots from today's game include QB Tim Reynolds. In his first college start, Reynolds went 11 of 19 for 157 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for a score. He was quite impressive. I was especially in awe of his accuracy. He could have hit a dime with the ball from 30 yards away. Also worthy of mention was Jericho James, and Tyler Brubaker. They combined for 55 yards rushing, with James scoring twice. Lastly, B.J. Jennings collected 21 yards on two carries, and caught 2 passes for 62 total receiving yards and one touchdown.
The offense did things a bit different today. They did not rely on the option anywhere near as much as in years past, but they still collected 133 yards rushing. Today was rare in that the Panthers accumulated more passing yards, than yards on the ground.
While there are things to look at to make the offense better, I am sure Coach Harper is quite happy with the offensive performance.
Giving up the amount of points that they did, one has to look at the defense. The unit with the most experience by far, was the group who had more problems than expected. Many of the problems presented themselves in the form of Kyle Boden. The Wasp quarterback was very impressive, going 32 of 50 for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns. It is obvious that their game plan was to pass, and pass often, and this worked well for them.
One of the more impressive things I saw today, was that the Panthers did not give up. This was a very telling quality about this team, and I think is a strong indicator of what we can expect in the weeks to come. Overall, I have, in years past viewed this game as one where Ferrum would gain experience, in preparation for the remainder of the season. While this too was the case today, the level of preparation, was far better than it was in recent years. Ferrum is further ahead, preparation wise, at this point in the season than I ever expected. It's not a win on the schedule, but Ferrum showed well today, and while there are things to work on, I look for things to get better each week.