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Hartford Colonials fight for balance, lose stability & game to Nighthawks, 19-14

The Colonials drop another one, and this wasn't pretty
The Colonials drop another one, and this wasn't pretty

Welcome back to Hartford, where the weather is worsening along with the football play. The Colonials once again found themselves in a sloppy game, and they turned the ball over way too many times. Their offensive line is still struggling (spared by some occasional nice runs by their running backs) and their reliable QB, Josh McCown, made three terrible mistakes to end Colonial drives. Other than all that, the team looks great…

It’s becoming painfully clear that this Colonials team is a work in progress. It’s rare to see a team with this much talent fight for an identity like Hartford has been throughout this season. Perfect example is the running game. The Colonials made a big deal about drafting Andre Dixon, yet he has yet to bust out with a big game and has been lapped by his backfield teammates. When the Colonials picked up NFL vet Kevin Jones, Dixon had to be worried. And if he wasn’t worried before this game, he should be worried now. Jones had more carries (and more yards per carry) than Dixon, and Lorenzo Booker has replaced him as the lead back.

But that’s not all. The Colonials continue to cycle in Ryan Perrilloux, hurting their offensive flow. Josh McCown needs all the reps he can get behind his poor offensive line so that he can try and get points on the board, and the Colonials are robbing him of that chance by putting in the limited Perrilloux. Perrilloux is a gifted, athletic player, but he is not the passer that McCown is. Time to re-think the Perrilloux strategy. His injection into games peaked in Week 1, and his play has steadily worsened over time. He’s essentially getting playing time based on promise and potential, and that’s not fair to a roster of players who are fighting hard to get back above .500.

The running game is going to be a weekly topic because the Colonials continue to play a collection of backs rather than just rely on one or two players. It’s understandable because nobody has been able to establish himself as the leading man, but then again it’s hard to blame guys for failing to stand out when they have limited opportunities (with that said, Booker stood out today with a robust 5.6 ypc on only 16 carries). A typical Colonials series will include all three running backs, with Booker getting first down, and Dixon and Jones fighting over the rest, depending on how the series progresses. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to the substitutions either.

Back to the quarterback play. Josh McCown is being leaned upon like he’s Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, and he’s obviously neither of those guys. He is a steady player who can lead a team down the field and can somewhat carry an offense. But if he has a poor offensive line and a lack of a running game to balance him out, he’s not going to put in a 400-yard performance to make all the troubles go away. Case in point today, where McCown forced three bad throws into coverage, with two of those mistakes ending Hartford drives that were already within field goal range. You can even say that he had a fourth, as that high snap to seal the loss was not only the center’s, but McCown’s as well. If you don’t have to go airborne for a ball, it’s catchable.

McCown’s counterpart, Jeff Garcia, played better, although not significantly so. He showed some flashes of brilliance, using his mobility to make some plays, but he also was inaccurate in the first half and often held on to the ball too long. His second half play was much better, as he started putting points on the board and avoided costly turnovers (unlike McCown).

Garcia and McCown are clearly the best quarterbacks in the UFL, but unfortunately they didn’t put on the aerial performance that I’m sure the UFL was hoping for leading up to this game. Neither passer even hit the 200-yard mark. This is unlike their matchup in Omaha on September 24th, when they combined for over 500 yards passing and six touchdowns. Not bad considering that NEITHER team hit 100 yards on the ground.

I’ll simply keep saying it until the madness ends. This team is talented, but they play sloppy football and the substitution decisions and turnover issues lead you to wonder why the coaching staff isn’t running a tighter ship. Plus, why didn’t Coach Palmer see that Lorenzo Booker was having such a big game and feed him the ball more? Instead he took him out for Kevin Jones and Andre Dixon so they could combine for 16 carries. Based on his performance on Saturday, at least a third of those should have gone to Booker.

Each week we say “Wait ‘till next week,” thinking that the woes will be put in the past. They haven’t been. The Colonials are a work in progress just like they were last year (when they played in New York) only this time they are seriously underachieving and need to wake up before their season ends prematurely.


  • Attendance: 14,066. Not bad for a team with a losing record playing on the coldest Saturday of the year since April (yes ,that’s a guess on my part).
  • Neither team established the run early. Majority of the work came late. Combined for 10 carries, 35 yards in the 1stquarter, finished combining for 237 on the ground for the day.
  • Nighthawks with better balance. Bring in Maurice Clarett when needed, with Ahman Green getting bulk of the work.
  • Hard to say if the Colonials’ D was more aggressive early, or if Garcia simply holds on to the ball too long at times. He loves to wait and use his mobility to make a play, but that can also lead to guys getting into the backfield and getting a shot at him.
  • While he may hold on to the ball too long at times, Garcia can have a very quick release when needed and can get into a good rhythm quickly. On first scoring drive, he spread the ball around well and kept the Colonials guessing.
  • McCown’s first gaffe of the day was a Perrilloux-esque throw over the middle that was picked off. Really poor decision in the red zone, which was surprising to see. Not a lot of zip on the ball, thrown into heavy coverage. Blown chance for Hartford to break the 7-7 tie.
  • Game lacking much of a flow in the first half, primarily because of the lack of a running game for both teams. When you can’t execute a balanced offense, you’re going to struggle to score in this league. Not enough game-breakers in the passing game.
  • Bad INT by McCown in opening possession of 2ndhalf. This has been the Colonials’ problem this year – ball control. McCown showing why he’s good for this league, but not NFL material. Not as sharp as he was during the opening weeks of the season, and he’s made very poor decisions during this game.

~Mark Rawden

You can also follow me on Twitter (rawdenm).


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