SFU football flashes potential, but falls 82–21 to the Western Oregon Wolves

Gavin Cobb and Rysen John’s play were among the positives to be found in Saturday’s loss

Wide receiver Rysen John had two touchdown catches on the day. (Photo courtesy of SFU Athletics)

After giving up 60-plus points in each of the last four games, SFU football fell 82–21 to the Western Oregon Wolves last Saturday.

“At times we can compete, but we’ll drop a pass at a key time, or we’ll have a mental error or a mental bust in terms of people’s assignments on the field,” explained head coach Kelly Bates. “And to compete in the conference . . . we have to get to the point where those things don’t happen.”

But there were a few signs of promise in the direction of competing that didn’t appear in the last two weekends of football.

Unlike the 83–7 blowout two weeks ago and the 62–0 shutout loss last weekend, SFU did appear competitive at many points, particularly in the first half and on offence.

Gavin Cobb continued to be a beast on the kick return, putting up a new SFU record for his 99-yard kick return for SFU’s first of three touchdowns. Cobb’s 317 all-purpose yards — 295 yards on nine kick returns — led the team. He also leads the GNAC in all-purpose yards with 1153 in six games.

“Gavin is another one of those kids with outstanding physical ability,” said Bates. “I’ve known from the moment I saw Gavin, and I’m sure most people have — it doesn’t take a very smart man to see that he’s got some amazing physical tools. But Gavin is young as well, and there are many things he has to learn in terms of preparing himself to play at the level he can play at . . .”

Cobb was not used on kick return in the fourth quarter, after showing some discomfort from his final kick return in the third quarter. It gave a chance for freshman Jethro Questad to show his stuff, and he finished with 94 yards on three attempts.

Rysen John put up the two other real highlight plays of the game. John received the two touchdown passes of the day, and is proving to be one of SFU’s more consistent receivers, putting up three touchdowns in three games played. He finished the day leading in receiving yards with 75.

As with Cobb, Bates feels the sophomore receiver has the potential to do a lot more.

“Rysen’s got some amazing physical talents, and all you have to do is look at the size of him . . . he’s got some physical talents you just can’t coach,” he explained. “[But] even though Rysen scored a couple touchdowns, and performed well in the scorezone, he still had some very noticeable mental busts in other spots.”

“. . .[H]e showed what I think a lot of our kids show: tremendous promise. They’ve got very good ability, we just need to grow their overall size, their overall football IQ, and their mental maturity.”

When 82 points are surrendered, however, there are going to be far more negatives than positives.

In the first half, when the offence had a few plays where they were moving the ball, the defence struggled to stop the bleeding of points, and SFU ended up down 44–14. While the kicking was more consistent for the most part, one of the lowlights of the day was when — after a Western Oregon touchdown about minute before — an SFU punt attempt went horribly wrong. A bad snap caused the kicker to fumble the ball, only for the Wolves to recover it for a touchdown.

But the fact that there were positives was a marked improvement over the previous two games. Hopefully, we’ll see the team build on the positives, and learn from the negatives.

“These opportunities are priceless, because they give us the opportunity to grow our football IQ,” said Bates. “You can’t buy experience. It has to be earned, and when you need to grow your football IQ to grow your mental maturity, you have to do that through experience, and these kids are getting that experience. It’s invaluable. That’s what we look for — we look for them to take advantage of that, because we know that will only help us down the line.”

This weekend, SFU will have a much-needed bye week, and will next play Azusa Pacific on the road on October 21.