A whole new plan at Coast Guard ... but the passing game is still pretty good, too
New London — The idea that Coast Guard Academy would run the ball more this season than in the past, becoming more balanced, wasn't just pretense.
The Bears did run the ball 34 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns in their 33-7 season-opening win last Thursday over the University of New England.
"Whatever coach thinks is best for the team is best for me," Coast Guard junior quarterback Ryan Jones said at Wednesday's team media luncheon. "(But) I know what goes on at Coast Guard. The pass-run is never going to be 50-50."
It took head coach Bill George only a few sentences into his postgame remarks to admit that offensive coordinator Ray LaForte told him by the second play of the game that LaForte was going to deviate from the offensive script. OK, Bill?
"Ray spends a lot of time scripting practice and game plans," George said. "But for example, I'm guessing Union (this week's opponent), sees the tape and sees No. 8 (Justin Moffatt) and 'if we don't cover him out there on the bubble, they're going to flip him the ball.'"
Moffatt was open on the bubble. LaForte elected to flip him the ball. That pass was incomplete, but the next play was a 43-yard completion from Jones to Moffatt over the middle, with Moffatt cutting up the right side for a 43-yard gain, setting up a Coast Guard score.
"It's about where can we get yards right now," George said. "We threw it better than we thought we would."
These are the guys who made LaForte change his game plan.
There was Jones, beginning the season for the first time as the Coast Guard starter. Jones was the Bears' backup last year when Ethan Goldcamp suffered a season-ending head injury, leading to Jones starting the final six games but with an offensive scheme tailored more to the lethal-armed Goldcamp than to the bruising Jones.
Jones finished 23-for-39 last week for 336 yards and two touchdowns.
Moffatt caught nine passes for 157 yards, one of nine Coast Guard players to make receptions. Six-foot-six wide receiver Liam Middleton made three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown and sophomore running backs Jon Wagner (5 catches, 51 yards) and Chris Gardner (1 catch, 19 yards, 1 TD) established themselves as threats.
Receivers Chip Crowley, Odell Graham, Scott Pierce, Miguel Moroles and Jay Griffin joined in.
The Bears meet Union (1-0) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in New London.
"I had no prediction we were going to throw the ball that well," George said. "I had no idea the two guys that hadn't gotten tackled in a game (Wagner and Gardner) weren't going to cough up a fumble. The quarterback got his first win, the tight end (Pierce) is a little bit better than we thought, the two backs are healthy. Now, do we all step it up to the next level?"
Jones threw 14 interceptions a year ago. He also had a few picks in an intrasquad scrimmage this season.
"The scrimmage was an awful day of practice for me," Jones said. "... I think the Coast Guard defense is a great defense to practice on. That just gave me confidence. You make mistakes in practice. That's what practice is for."
"They were playing really conservatively," Moffatt said of the University of New England defense. "(Jones) was hitting me in windows where I was wide open. ... I honestly was a fan of incorporating more running. (Wagner and Gardner) are our one-two punch ... that opens the pass game. We threw 39 times, but we had a bunch of runs, too."
Jones' comfort level has soared. He spent time at lunch Wednesday chatting away about the rituals of his hometown, Punxsutawney, Pa., Groundhog Day headquarters.
He also has found a comfort level with his receivers. Moffatt took the blame for Jones' only interception, which bounced off him.
"It just works," Jones said. "(Moffatt has) got a high football IQ. (Pierce) is very patient in the sense he waited his turn and when his number was called, he was ready. Chris Gardner and Jon Wagner are both freaks of nature. They were just leaving bodies in their paths. Chip doesn't get quite as much attention. Chip is very unselfish. He's a really good blocker. Chip is a really good leader."
"I think our backups can come along and be great receivers, some you haven't even seen yet," George said. "I'm impressed with a lot of guys."