Coaches search for answers
Halfway through what has become "the longest season" for Cougar fans,
Cougar head coach Dana Dimel reflected on the unusual circumstances surrounding
his team at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
"Obviously when you come and go 0-5 you have to try to make some evaluations
of why you're 0-5," Dimel said. "That's the major reason of how to get
out of that slump and how to get our football team on track."
Dimel refuses to make excuses for himself or the team's poor start,
an admirable trait for a coach saddled with a team in flux in the midst
of a nine-game losing streak.
Instead, Dimel alludes to an assessment of the Cougars' play by a good
friend of his, a professional football scout, who attended Monday's practice,
watched the team's game films and made the following comment, Dimel said.
"One of the things, coach, just like you keep saying, is that your football
team is real close to winning games," the scout said. "You guys aren't
losing football games, you're just not winning them."
Head coach Dana Dimel focuses on the play during the Cougars'
game against Memphis on Saturday. The Cougars came out on the short end
of the score, 52-33.
Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar
Understanding why the losses continue to pile up in spite of the football
team's hustle and "never say die" attitude can lead to answers that might
change the losing streak into a winning streak. Hence the mid-season evaluation
and decision to go with younger players.
The fact that the players haven't lain down and rolled over is to their
credit in a season of disappointments.
Memphis head coach Tommy West noted the Cougars' refusal to quit.
"I kept thinking, 'You guys are 0-4. Let it go,'" West said about the
third quarter, in which the Cougars scored 13 points.
Dimel pointed out that only three players on the team had any extended
starting experience before Dimel took over last year.
Those players are senior wide receiver Orlando Iglesias, senior safety
Jason Parker and senior offensive lineman Jabari Beauford.
The Cougars have only five fifth-year seniors on the team. Two of them
are recovering from injuries.
Compare that lack of experience to a Rice team that has 27 fifth-year
seniors in its program and one answer to the Cougar woes materializes.
"Those numbers that we're dealing with right now, that in itself can
lead to a football team playing like we're playing, playing extremely hard
but not yet finding ways to get enough victories on the slate," Dimel said.
"That's the thing I'm most proud of with these guys. Every Monday they
come out and practice their tails off … and every week we get a little
The Cougar offense has come on like gangbusters as the season progresses.
The team didn't miss a beat when Nick Eddy replaced injured Kelly Robertson
Eddy was outstanding. The offense actually performed better in the red
zone under the direction of the second-string quarterback.
"We're not balanced enough on offense and defense and special teams
to win football games," Dimel said. "That's what's critical for us to understand."
The Cougars' Achilles' heel is a defense that yielded more than 250
yards rushing in three out of five games this season.
"The schemes haven't changed a lot. We're very young as far as experience
goes," Dimel said. "But they're getting better, they're playing harder.
They're going to keep plugging away and find a way to get through this
and get that first win. Once we get that first win good things are going
In fairness to Dimel, the second-year coach only fields half of a Dana
Dimel football team; the juniors and seniors on the team were recruited
by Dimel's predecessor, former head coach Kim Helton.
"That hasn't been a big concern. The guys that are here and are fighting
and playing and doing things, to me they're guys that I feel we recruited,"
Dimel said. "We've got some real good football players. If you look at
the numbers, there's just not enough of them."
Dimel believes this season can be successful in spite of the 0-5 start.
"We still think we're going 6-5," Dimel said.