FLC: It’s a game of inches

Still winless on the football field, yet hope surrounds these Skyhawks

Doyle Bode caught 14 balls for 168 yards and this 18-yard touchdown in last week’s offensive outburst against then-No. 3, now-No. 2 CSU-Pueblo at Ray Dennison Memorial Field. The offense has created optimism for Fort Lewis College before the Skyhawks’ 1 p.m. homecoming game today at home against Colorado School of Mines. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Doyle Bode caught 14 balls for 168 yards and this 18-yard touchdown in last week’s offensive outburst against then-No. 3, now-No. 2 CSU-Pueblo at Ray Dennison Memorial Field. The offense has created optimism for Fort Lewis College before the Skyhawks’ 1 p.m. homecoming game today at home against Colorado School of Mines.

Teams without a win typically aren’t this upbeat.

Yet after a quality showing against a ranked CSU-Pueblo squad last week, it’s an apt term for the atmosphere surrounding the Fort Lewis College football program heading into today’s homecoming matchup with Colorado School of Mines.

There’s a spring in the Skyhawks’ step because after the last two weeks, there’s a feeling they’re building toward something, that there’s a legitimate reason for optimism. An offense totaling 500-plus yards and a defense that held the league’s best rushing attack about 100 yards below its average tends to have that effect.

“You can just feel the energy in the air’s different,” defensive lineman Cary Purchase said. “We all know what we’re capable of, and we’ve seen what we can do when things go right. If we just eliminate those mistakes, we have a chance.”

What cost the Skyhawks (0-4, 0-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) in their game against then-No. 3 CSU-Pueblo, however, were small mistakes that snowballed into a 50-21 defeat.

Two turnovers, including one pick six.

Twenty penalties for 182 yards.

A near miss on fourth-and-goal from the 2.

“Yeah, 20 penalties and X amount of turnovers and pick six off a tipped ball. You know, for us, it comes down to obviously our discipline,” FLC head coach Cesar Rivas-Sandoval said. “We talked a lot about discipline in our meetings on Sunday and on Tuesday and on Wednesday. Having enough focus throughout the game that your play matters, whether you play one play or other plays throughout the game, your one play matters. Because after awhile, your one play, and his one play and his one play, that’s how you get 20 penalties.”

Health is another factor. The Skyhawks, like many other teams this time of year, have been roughed up a bit, particularly on the defensive line and in the secondary. Both are critical areas against Colorado Mines (3-2, 1-2 RMAC), which averages 455.8 yards passing per game and 550.6 total.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Brown recently was named the RMAC’s Male Athlete of the Month for September after throwing for 2,130 yards and 17 touchdowns.

But even with health issues, the optimism isn’t unfounded. There’s a belief that with an easier second half of the schedule and a few fewer mistakes, wins are on the horizon.

The offense especially is excited, given that it has put up close to 1,000 total yards in the last two games. Quarterback Tim Jenkins earned the National Football Foundation-Colorado Chapter Player of the Week for his 501-yard effort against the now-second ranked ThunderWolves.

“During the beginning of the season, we just felt that it was going to come along,” offensive lineman Evan Wagstrom said. “Now we’re starting to see the fruits of that labor. It’s a special feeling when you get all three phases of the (offensive) game clicking.

“We just know we’re close (to a win). We know we’re just inches away, and we’re trying to get those inches everywhere we can.”

Still, optimism guarantees nothing. But FLC will look to capitalize on it and recent lessons learned come today, hoping to give fans and alumni a show for homecoming.

“Doesn’t matter what I believe; it only matters what they believe,” Rivas said. “And I really do believe they believe (they can win).”

rowens@durangoherald.com