Warwick Wolves vs. Loughborough Students - 10/02/19
The Loughborough Students travelled to the Cryfield Pavilion top of Division 1A Midlands and looking to rollover the Warwick Wolves as they had done so in the reverse fixture early in the season. The Wolves were determined to put up a better fight and with their defence dominating the league and their offence starting to click – confidence was high in the Warwick camp.
The Wolves offence was looking to make an impact as they did so in the previous week scoring 5 touchdowns, but the passing game that was so dangerous against Leicester failed on its very first attempt. QB Matt Oosthuizen targeted nitty rookie WR Alex James running a vert down the field but Loughborough’s rangy corner set himself up in perfect position to come down with the ball in the contested catch that ensued. The Student’s Offence was well positioned to get a quick touchdown, already inside the Wolves Redzone, but the strong Defence of Warwick held firm and plugged all three runs for gains of less than 2 yards each. Loughborough were forced to attempt a field goal and the kicker was just able to get the ball over the crossbar to put the Students up 3-0.
The Wolves on the ball could not gain anything and went three & out. Loughborough then heavily featured the outside run game to the left and the Wolves Defence didn’t have any answers. Loughborough drove down the field and once close enough to the end zone they handed the ball off to their obese fullback who plodded along behind the strong blocks set up to put a touchdown on the board for the Students. With the extra point going over the sticks, the score was 10-0 Loughborough.
Things looked to brighten up for the Wolves offense with QB Oosthuizen opening the drive with a powerful 7 yard run through the tackles. Alas, these gains were then negated after strong Loughborough pressure forced a QB run back to the original spot of the ball. The Wolves couldn’t convert the long 3rd down and brought the punting unit onto the field. The Wolves Defence then shut down Loughborough with highlight plays being made by DE Araan Dass, chasing a runner down for a big TFL and LB Koorosh Fatemian stripping the ball away from the Students’ RB. LB Fatemian has had such a knack for forcing fumbles this year, he has been able to make stripping a well-regarded profession. With Loughborough recovering the fumble, they had to then punt it away.
The woes continued on offence for the Wolves as Oosthuizen’s pass to a slot receiver running a wheel was well-read by the Students’ Linebacker and he undercut the throw for a diving interception; again Loughborough had excellent field position. On the first play of another drive already starting in the Wolves redzone, the Students’ QB took the ball on a designed run to the outside and looked to have gained enough for a first down, but like a heat-seeking missile FS Ed Roberts came down aggressively and laid his shoulder straight into the QB’s midriff forcing the ball to fly out of his grip. MLB Ed McNamara wriggling on the floor after a missed tackle fortunately witnessed the ball fly straight onto him and he quickly clutched it in to get the ball back for the Wolves, again the Wolves D had made a big play to keep the game in the balance.
After two well-fought runs from RB Obi Ojji down the middle, the Wolves attempted to convert the 3rd and medium with a passing play. QB Oosthuizen, rolling to his
right to avoid the heavy pressure, lobbed the ball up to rookie TE Ste Bailey who remarkably came down with the ball with a highlight-reel OBJ-like one-handedpluck from the upper-atmosphere. Unfortunately, the catch came a couple of yards short and even with this spectacular completion the Wolves had to punt, and with some dodgy angles taken by the bullets on punt coverage, a return put the Students into Wolves territory.
Loughborough then engaged in a monumentous drive, still refusing to throw the ball with their starting QB out of the game. The plan of continuous running was successful in moving the ball; the Students gained 4 first downs with the drive progressing from the 49-line to the 5-yard line, gaining just enough each time to move the chains. However, once within 10 yards of the end zone the Wolves defence really stepped up, big tackles from DT Yass Kamara, LB James Wilson and CB Charlie Coleman forced Loughborough to attempt a 4th and goal from the 5-yard line. A brain-fart then occurred with both wingbacks setting off in motion in a comedic display which was inevitably penalised for an illegal shift. This set the Students back enough for the Loughborough Head Coach to send the field goal unit onto the pitch and the Students had to settle for 3 points.
Now with not long left in the half, the Wolves had to move the ball quickly and utilized the short passing game, a dump-off to FLEX Nile Painter on a flare got the Wolves into a short 3rd down scenario. Another dump-off was then executed successfully for a first down to RB Obi Ojji, and this one was a magical one; the mobile running back sunk into a soft spot in zone coverage and QB Oosthuizen floated the ball his way; Ojji showed off his one-inch vert and patted the ball up volleyball style, on his way down he corralled the ball on the rebound showing excellent concentration to keep a hold of the ball. Unfortunately, the next three passes were incomplete with the strong winds and rain that had appeared from almost nowhere certainly having an impact on throwing the ball. Ed Roberts further improved on his impressive day so far with an accurate punt that pinned the Students on the 1-yard line.
Head Coach Geoff Williams licked his lips in anticipation when the punt was downed so close to the Loughborough end zone; he had only one thing on his mind – a defensive score. Bringing the pressure with a double A gap blitz, MLB Ed McNamara penetrated through the O-line and violently flung the QB to the ground for a safety. Coach Williams had gotten his wish; the score was now at 13-2. The Wolves then on offense still had a bit of time left on the clock and were so close to bringing the score to within a few points. On a rollout Oosthuizen impressively launched the ball with perfect accuracy through the wind and rain to Painter who ran a deceptive wheel from the slot, the receiver was hit in-stride, 40 yards down the pitch and with his defender helpless on the ground he had no one to catch him. But he could not fully grasp the wet ball as it eluded his grasp the ball fell to the floor along with every heart of the Wolves side-line. The halftime whistle blew at 13-2 to the Students.
It became apparent during the halftime warmups that Loughborough’s QB was out of the gamed due to the hard hit taken from MLB McNamara, with no QB’s left Loughborough were training wide receivers to play under center. To adapt to the heavy run game and lack of passing QB the Wolves changed tactics to a 5-man DLine, however, this tactic looked to be ineffective when Loughborough broke off a
large run early to start the half. But things soon changed with the Students having to punt after big tackles for loss by FS Roberts and DT Kamara.
The Wolves first drive started well with a QB draw play nearly gaining a first down, but a run blown up for a large loss killed the drive and forced a punt. Loughborough’s drive fared similar with Student’s new QB having some fumbling issues along with DL Balint Fernengel making two good stops. After another three and out from the Wolves, Loughborough’s offence were on the field again inside their own 20-yard line. The drive began with DT Will Carroll taking down the running back almost as soon as he took the ball from the QB, this seemed to have flustered Loughborough’s rookie QB as on the next play he collided into the RB and lost grip of the ball, in the pile that ensued, LB James Wilson gained possession of the ball and the Wolves now had great field position to get a score.
A large sack on the first play of the drive created a lot to do for the Offence but two good runs from QB Oosthuizen and RB Alvin Vyapooree brought the Wolves back into field goal range. In what was a huge moment in the game, Kicker Ed Roberts sent the ball on a too low trajectory as Loughborough were able to power through the O-line and block the kick. With the ball bouncing free a Loughborough player was able to catch it and run. Holder Will Whiteley, carrying a back injury – self-diagnosed as one hit away from paralysis, made zero attempt to tackle the runner and he ended up gaining 30 extra yards; it was only down to the pace and effort of speedster Nile Painter that the ball carrier was tackled and not breaking away for a touchdown.
However, there was no initial consequence of these extra yards as Loughborough were held up on offense yet again with DT Carroll plugging the middle very effectively. Loughborough’s punt was a massive one, pinning the Wolves inside their own 1-yard line. The Students thought they had gone up 16-2 when a Loughborough linebacker broke on a pass, intercepting it and taking it one yard down the pitch to score a touchdown, but it turned out that a Loughborough DE had jumped the snap and the play was nullified to the anger of the Loughborough team. In a play some would call genius, QB Oosthuizen fumbled the ball forward on the very next play and it was recovered by quick-thinking WR James Norris for a first down. That ironically was the only positive play of the series and after three more incompletions the Wolves had to punt.
After Loughborough had more fumbling issues with the snap, with DL Araan Dass getting on the ball, the Wolves offence were sent out onto the field. After two uninspiring plays, an impressive QB run from Oosthuizen set up a 4th and short conversion opportunity; but Loughborough brought heavy pressure and forced an inaccurate check-down which fell incomplete, ending the Wolves hopes to drive the ball. Loughborough instantly hit the Wolves hard with a long run from their portly running back, CB Tobias Peters laid a large hit to stop the run breaking out for a long TD. Then the cornerback made a play to stop a run short with another hit – finally the many hours in the gym look to be paying off for the 2nd year man. Ed Roberts finished the Loughborough drive with a huge TFL, completely reading the play and taking down the runner 5 yards behind the LOS.
Both offenses then had déjà vu drives, the Wolves endured a three and out, and for Loughborough, a fumbled snap by the QB which was then recovered by DE Sam
Bateman. Now the Wolves offence – led by backup QB Ethan Mawhinney after Oosthuizen was shaken up, had little left on the clock to make an impact, but make an impact they sort of did. QB Mawhinney showed good presence in the pocket and found imposing WR Michael Higham on two almost identical seam routes for nearly 30 yards aggregate. This was all that was to be gained on offence as time expired as the Wolves failed to convert a 4th down at midfield, the game ended after a scoreless second half to keep the score at 13-2.
In what may sound like a broken record it was the inability of offence to continuously drive the ball downfield that limited the potential for this team to grab a win. Defence again was a strongpoint for the Wolves with FS/CB Ed Roberts having a huge day defending the run. The Wolves now prepare for a match for the ages against their arch rivals the Coventry Jets at the Juicible next week.