Any glow emanating from The Rent after the Colonials’ season opening win has finally vanished, as Hartford lost its second straight game on Saturday. The Colonials were dropped by the Florida Tuskers 33-20 in an ugly defeat that will leave a lot of players, fans, and coaches scratching their heads and wondering how this team has fallen so far so quickly.
The Colonials fumbled the ball five times and turned the ball over four times in a very sloppy performance. The back breaker came in a four-minute span of the third quarter when the Colonials fumbled the ball twice and both turnovers led to Florida scores, blowing a close game open. While the Tuskers did not leave Hartford with a perfect performance either, they can at least proclaim that their second half intensity and execution significantly dwarfed that of the Colonials. And with that said, you wonder how a team led by the experienced and battle-tested Coach Palmer can lose two straight games in the way that Hartford has. Their first loss was a last second defeat thanks to a touchdown pass by Jeff Garcia, and this recent defeat featured a ton of inexcusable mistakes and horrible second half play.
“Any time, you turn the ball over four times and commit seven penalties, you’re going to have a difficult time,” Hartford coach Chris Palmer said. “We came back in the fourth quarter and we played hard but we didn’t get any points when we needed to down the stretch.”
Coach Palmer is correct with his first point, but how hard can you say a team played when it shows significant lack of focus and grasp of the importance of winning the turnover battle? And what about strategy? The Colonials have three very good players on their offense, backs Andre Dixon and Lorenzo Booker, and quarterback Josh McCown. Yet, the Colonials couldn’t get the ground game going and continue to work in backup quarterback Ryan Perrilloux. While I acknowledged that the substitution of Perilloux into the game on opening day was a nice change of pace, it’s not going to work every week. Sometimes this quarterback tag-in is going to disrupt the flow of the starter, and mistakes are going to be made. Plus, Perilloux hasn’t shown us anything from a passing standpoint that makes us think that he deserves these snaps.
The quarterback matchup was one that Hartford should have won easily. Florida’s signal caller, Brooks Bollinger, is an NFL castoff who is a smaller, less talented, and right-handed Steve Young clone. He has played well since joining the UFL, but he still lacks the natural ability to wow you or to make you wonder how he’s not suiting up on Sundays for teams like the Browns or the Bills. McCown, on the other hand, has been a revelation for Hartford and has played excellent ball for two games.
With this obviously lop-sided matchup, plus with Florida routinely putting eight and nine guys in the box, the Colonials should have taken to the air even more often than they did. And yet McCown only dropped back two more times than Bollinger did.
The coaching staff doesn’t deserve all of the blame of course, and one unit needs to wake up on this team if Hartford plans on turning its season around. That unit would be the offensive line. Too often we’ve seen Booker and Dixon struggle to find holes, and this Saturday was no exception. Dixon finished the day with 24 yards on 11 carries, which is far from the type of numbers that the Colonials anticipated when they drafted him #1 overall. Top that off with McCown getting sacked 4 times, and the offensive line better hit film study and the practice field hard this week.
At the end of the day, the Colonials are a good football team with a knowledgeable and experienced coach. They have a good number of playmakers on their roster. But if they can’t get their focus back and fix their offensive line problems, this will be a lost season very quickly.
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