Merced College

Merced College football team hoping to relieve frustrations in conference opener

cwinterfeldt@mercedsun-star.com

The frustration level on the Merced College campus is understandably high.

In the Blue Devil football team’s mind, today’s Gold Coast Conference opener with NorCal No. 9 Hartnell should be a battle of unbeatens. Instead, Merced limps into the 6 p.m. kickoff with a 1-3 record and losses of one, three and seven points.

“There’s no doubt there’s a lot of frustration,” freshman quarterback Juwan Brown said. “We know we haven’t played our best. We know all of those games were there for the taking.

“The most frustrating part is we’ve shown we can move the ball. We just haven’t executed when it matters.”

Timely execution has been a problem.

Merced has outgained its opponents and dominated time of possession in all three losses. Bob Casey’s squad also has turned over the ball seven times and been flagged 37 times for 432 yards.

“It would be nice to play a mistake-free game and really see what we’re capable of doing,” Casey said. “However you look at it, we haven’t played well enough to win those three games.

“We’ve left a lot of points on the field either through turnovers, poor red-zone execution or missed kicks. I think we could stomach being 1-3 better if we’d played our best and just been beaten by the other teams. That hasn’t been the case.”

The Blue Devils are going to need a cleaner performance if they wish to ride momentum into their bye week. Hartnell has made 4-0 look easy, outscoring opponents 211-80. The Panthers rank second in the state with 52.8 points per game and sixth with 472.8 total yards per game.

“They’ve gotten on teams early by being very opportunistic,” Casey said. “They’ve scored off of turnovers. They’ve blocked a few punts and extra points. They’ve scored in a variety of ways, and what makes them so dangerous is that they’re a complete team. You have to be focused and ready in all three phases of the games.”

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After just one score in just five second-half red-zone trips a week ago and two fourth-quarter collapses, finishing drives and finishing games has to be the focus.

“It’s pretty upsetting beating ourselves every week,” Brown said. “It’s all about belief – belief in ourselves and in each other. We have to believe we’re going to execute and then go out and do it.”

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