This is my 2nd year coaching Papal Rage I am really looking forward to this season. We already have one year under our belt of building a new system for Notre Dame Ultimate. Looking back to last year, I couldn’t have had a better three captains as a first year coach. They let me be coach and I learned a lot about coaching last year with them. I was thinking this year that we are going to start off much stronger then we did last year. Practice is looking great! The fundamentals of the new guys at this point were better than last year. The overall level of play at this point compared to last year is higher. Going into MLC and getting a chance to play in a power pool, I couldn’t have been more excited.
First game was against Wisconsin. Rage starts off on O and moves the disc down beautifully. 1-0 Rage. Wisc scores. Rage nice O again and scores. Wisc scores. Rage with their 3rd beautiful O line score in a row to go up 3-2 on Wisconsin. As the players from last year can attest, I talk a lot about the “Unknown”. The “Unknown” is those first 4, 5, or 6 points of a game where neither team knows anything about the other. I talk to them about how any team can go up big or be down big inside this “Unknown”. After the “Unknown” is over is when teams start getting used to players and a teams style, teams start to adjust. Rage won this unknown and did it looking perfect. After being up 3-2, Rage loses this game 3-13. Now as a coach and someone who teaches fundamentals over and over, I really believe that a Rage team should NEVER lose a game 3-13 to anyone in the country. Wisconsin made their changes (not letting us huck and fronting the in cuts), but it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Rage was dropping the disc too often or still running huck plays with defenders standing in the back already. We honestly looked too afraid and we lost all confidence. Once the confidence was gone, the big break throws and big play capability we needed to get any type of momentum back was gone. We learned a lot from this game. Don’t get me wrong, Wisconsin is very very good. But like i said, we should never lose to a team 3-13. This is a video I’ve already watched twice and we can still learn more from it.
Game 2 was against Wash U. We played Wash U last year at MLC and lost to them 11-12. We then played them in the spring (Huck Finn) and beat them 15-8 or so. They are a very well coached team and play a fundamental game. The one thing they lack is star power. They don’t have a player or players that can take over a game. This was the perfect matchup for us after that Wisconsin Blowout. Rage would start on D and go down 0-1. O line looked good and tied it at 1’s. Then 1-2 and then 2-2. The Rage D line gets the first break of the weekend with a Biz to Lighting McQueen score and the prop point! 3-2. Rage gets the momentum and gets loud, NaCL gets a D on the next point and Fitz throws some crappy throw that Klenke somehow comes down with for a 2nd break and a 4-2 lead. At 5-4 Rage and on O, Wash U comes out in a zone and the O Line is confident and gets an easy score, 6-4 Rage. The loud Rage sideline is loud and Wash U seems nervous with the disc, Rage gets a break after a Wash U throwaway, to take half 7-4. Rage does not give up a break in this game and gets 2 more to win the game 13-8. This was more of the team I saw this fall and was looking forward to seeing. Just confident and fundamental play. We adjusted on them and forced Wash U to complete the hard throws, which caused many turnovers.
Game 3 was against Luther. Luther brought a smaller roster and looked to have their team run around 3 players. Rage always seems to struggle against teams that have a star or a team that runs through 1 or 2 players. Rage starts on O and gets it, 1-0 Rage. Luther scores 1-1. Next Rage O has a couple hucks too deep and Luther calls a TO and works it up for the break. 1-2 and Luther momentum. Luther gets another break, 1-3. After another Luther break, it is 3-6 when Rage finally gets their first break with another Biz to McQueen connection to make it 4-6. Rage can’t get the momentum back though and Luther takes half 4-7. I spoke with the team at half and I could see that everyone truly believe we were the better team, just not playing like it. Too many open throws to the ground and drops. Fundamental things. Stack too deep, timing on the cuts, etc. Luther gets the O out of half to go up 4-8. Rage O looks nice followed tight Rage D that causes a throw away and a Biz to NaCL break. 6-8. The wind was picking up and this game had plenty of turnovers from both teams. Hard cap was coming soon. Luther scores to go up 6-9. Rage scores the next 2 but it was too late. Hard cap goes off and the final score is Papal Rage 8 – Luther 9. This loss was tough because this was a problem last year for Rage where we would go down big early to a team we were better then and had to come back. Definitely something we need to work on is starting our games off strong.
Game 4 was against Colorado. The first point sees a huck play to an open Kru which floats too much and allows the Colorado defender to catch up and get the D. The same Colorado player sprints down the field and gets a huck to start with a break. This play stood out to me, not because the float hucked, or Kru didn’t get it, or that Colorado scored. What stood out to me was the fundamental thing that a Colorado player ran 70 yrds from one side of the field to the other without any help. He had to run by 6 of our defenders. No help from the 6 defenders and no “Help” call from the sideline. That was a frustrating thing. We opened up lines in this game and Colorado did as well. The final was 5-13. I think Colorado was a very beatable team but we have some work to do before we are on their level. Our potential leads me to believe we can get there.
After Wash U beat Luther in a close game, that moved Rage to 3rd in the pool on point differential. Ending up 3rd in the pool would set us up with a PreQuarters matchup against Kansas.
PreQuarters had a start off with our typical problem of starting off slow. We go up 1-0 to start and then are down 1-5. Kansas didn’t do anything amazing, they just made us do the hard stuff and we couldn’t. Fronting our cutters, helping back, poaching lanes. Kansas takes half 3-8. Once again we are down at half and everyone believes (as do i) we are the better team. We start the second half with a break, 4-8 but it does not lead to much momentum and Kansas scores their next O and gets the break back. 4-10. We get a few late points but its too late and the hard cap goes off to a final of 7-11. This was another game of starting off slow and not playing with the confidence needed to break through with what Kansas was doing defensively. I talk about lack of confidence only because I have seen what we are capable of and I know that if we have the confidence behind us we won’t let big runs by another team happen. It will help us to start games off strong rather than fall behind because a team changes strategy and takes us out of what we are comfortable with.