The season has not started out great for the Ravens, posting a 1-4 record through the first half of their schedule. Coming off of a bye week, the team is ready to turn things around. They will look to climb back to .500 in the upcoming weeks, aided by a three week stretch of very winnable games against Earlham (0-6), Rose-Hulman (2-4) and Bluffton (1-5).
Head coach Steve Rock thinks that the bye week came at a perfect time for the Ravens, allowing them to rest some of their players and also start fresh for their upcoming slate of games. Rock will also use this week off to give some backups a few extra reps. However, starting out slow has its effects on a team and its players.
“I think our guys have become a little discouraged,” said Rock. “Our performance in the homecoming game was kind of a reality check for us and where we stand in the conference. The goal right now is to refocus and get back to square one and our offseason mentality.”
While the wins haven’t come as frequently as the rebuilding Ravens would have liked, there are many positive signs that distinguish this years team from those of the past. Junior running back Johnny Ovalle has found the endzone four times already this season and sophomore receiver Alex Barnett leads the team with 202 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Anderson has also found a way to be competitive in almost every game.
“I think having the right people around me has driven my early success,” said Barnett. “I have guys underneath me who look to me for guidance, as well as coaches above me who push me to become better everyday.”
The game this Saturday against Earlham should be an easy win for the Ravens. Earlham has not won a game since 2013 and has been outscored 39-341 already this season.
Rose-Hulman will be a good test to see if the Ravens can beat a solid team who has struggled to win close games. The Fightin’ Engineers have faced some of the toughest teams in Division III football this season, but have also battled consistency issues against very beatable opponents.
The Bluffton game is another matchup that the Ravens should have a good shot of winning. Their lone win this season came against Earlham in September, but since then the Beavers have lost three in a row.
With the easiest part of their schedule on the horizon, the Ravens have a legitimate chance to string together some wins. Rock understands the importance of winning games, but won’t prepare his players any different than he has all season long.
“We won’t put pressure on ourselves and say that these are must win games,” said Rock. “We are going to prepare for each team the way we have every game. Our main focus is to translate our preparation into success on Saturdays.”
“I’m not a big fan of comparing who has beaten who,” added Rock. “In reality, you don’t know much about a particular team until you can break down their film and figure out what our game plan will be.”
Rock has come in with a plan for his team, and despite some disheartening wins against top level talent, he remains focused on rebuilding the football program into one that can compete with anyone. Even with wins not coming like they would have hoped, the players still trust their coach and what he is trying to do.
“We know that this program is going to need some time before it can really take off,” said Barnett. “The biggest thing is just keeping our minds right and trusting the process. Knowing that these teams are in the same boat as us kind of helps to relieve some stress, however we are going to prepare for them just like all other teams we face.”
The Ravens were picked to finish eighth in the conference in the preseason coaches poll. Currently, the team sits in sixth place halfway through the season. If they can manage to pull out a couple wins in the next few games, they believe that their team will get the respect they deserve.
“Obviously we’d like to have another win or two under our belt at this point,” said Rock. “We’ve played well against some good competition thus far, and we’ve had some games that we haven’t played our best. We just need to become more consistent as a team.”
Their next two games will be on the road before returning home against Bluffton on October 27. The Ravens will look to post their first winning record in any month since November of 2008.