CANTON St. Lawrence Universitys football team moved the ball a little better Saturday but struggled for a third straight week, falling 28-7 to Alfred University in a nonconference game at Leckonby Stadium.
The Saints (0-3 overall) lost most of their key offensive starters from last season and the new unit has yet to click, though has shown some signs that there are better days ahead.
Its going to be a scary group in a few years when they get older, Alfred coach Dave Murray said of the Saints.
The best example of how close St. Lawrence has been this season came near the end of the first quarter when the Saints tried a double pass and wide receiver Evan Shifley threw the ball just over the finger tips of Colby Johnson, who would have scored an easy touchdown if the play had worked.
Our kids battled, SLU coach Mark Raymond said. We have some tough, competitive kids. Thats always a great thing to see. Our guys played tremendously hard. We just need to execute better. We had some near misses today. If we can complete that darn double pass, and things like that, you just dont know where it can go. Good teams make those and thats what weve got to start doing.
One thing that has hindered SLU all season is putting itself in deep yardage situations. SLU is averaging only 2.3 yards on first-down plays this season and the team has needed an average of nine yards for a first down on second-down plays and eight yards on third-down plays.
Our kids are obviously preparing well and playing hard, Raymond said. We just need to get to the point where were executing and clicking as a group.
Alfred (1-1) won its 23rd straight game against the Saints on Saturday, but despite the three-touchdown margin of victory it was not an easy game for the Saxons.
We struggled the first few (offensive) series to get going, Murray said. SLU played hard the entire game. Their kids played with enthusiasm.
Alfred finally scored a touchdown on its fourth possession, moving 11 plays on 76 yards, capped by a 3-yard run by Austin Dwyer with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
SLU responded to the touchdown by moving the ball to Alfreds 32 before the drive was stalled on an incomplete pass from Zane Fish on a fourth-and-three play.
The Saxons took over and produced another scoring drive, moving 68 yards on nine plays and ending with another touchdown run by Dwyer, this one a 2-yard effort with 9:35 left in the half.
Alfred extended the lead to 21-0 with just 86 seconds left in the first half on a 3-yard touchdown run by Chuck Beckwith.
I thought we did a good job of running the ball, said Alfred guard Harold Spetla, a Tupper Lake native. We fixed some protection issues that we had last week and we keyed on a couple different (SLU defensive) players and picked them up. I think, as an offense, we picked up our attitude. We got back a little bit of the swagger that we didnt have last week. We moved the ball and just moving the ball was a big deal.
SLU attempted a comeback early in the second half, scoring a touchdown on its second possession on a 4-yard pass from Fish to Jake Gnieser to cut the lead to 21-7.
Alfred answered the score by driving to SLUs 29, but the Saints got the ball back on an interception by Joe Napolitano.
Unfortunately for SLU that interception was followed by three more in the next seven plays, which resulted in Alfred starting its final touchdown drive on the SLU 33 late in the third quarter. That drive ended with a 28-yard scoring pass from Zach Sopak to Beckwith.
One consolation for the Saints, who open Liberty League play at home next Saturday against Union, is that the last time the team went 0-3 in nonconference play, in 2010, they wound up winning the Liberty League championship and competing in the NCAA Tournament.
If we can get off to a good start in the conference you dont know where the season goes, Raymond said.