Bulldogs look to learn from loss to Bison
     2012-09-21      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Ken Kurtz/Spectrum Photo Gering senior Branden Gabel (No. 66) creates an opening for senior teammate James Guzman (No. 32), while Bulldog senior Brett Orozco (No. 55) eyes the play on Friday at home against McCook. The Bulldogs fell short, with a 26-7 victory for McCook. 
When a football team like the Gering Bulldogs enters its fourth game with a 3-0 record, either the game is going to prove that the team is good enough to remain unbeaten or it needs to correct some things — or both.

In the case of the Bulldogs, who were upended 26-7 by the McCook Bison on Friday night at Memorial Stadium, second-year Gering head coach Jimmie Rhodes saw more that needed to be fixed than sustained as the Bulldogs prepare this week for Friday’s game at Grand Island Northwest.

First of all, although the Bulldogs surrendered 296 yards to the Bison, who won their second straight game after an unprecedented 0-2 start under longtime coach Jeff Gross, McCook averaged just 4.6 yards per rush, a respectable figure considering the Bison’s smash-mouth running tradition.

The Bulldogs allowed McCook — which played without starting quarterback Austin Cherry, who suffered a shoulder injury against GI Northwest — just three pass completions for 74 yards, although the first was a 58-yard touchdown reception by senior Cody Wudtke from junior back-up QB Vince Lyons.

“It was a game of short-field opportunities,” Rhodes said. “We gave them a few big runs, but we continued to stop them mid-line and we stopped the veer, but we didn’t answer and that was our downfall.”
McCook’s potent two-back set of senior tailback Jake Schlager (18 carries, 125 yards) and senior fullback Kyle Stewart (21 rushes, 95 yards) paved the Bison’s ground game in taking advantage of their short-field offerings.

McCook needed just 41 yards early in the second quarter to drive six plays, the last of which resulted in the first of Stewart’s short-rush touchdowns for a 3-yard score.

Senior Dakota Baumgartner added the extra point and ended a 24-yard drive late in the quarter with a 27-yard field goal that gave the Bison a 17-0 halftime lead.

Gering junior Gage Smith tried to get the Bulldogs on the board with seven seconds left in the half, but his 36-yard field goal was blocked by McCook senior Javier Beltran.

Baumgartner added a 39-yard field goal with 5:22 left in the third quarter, ending a Bison drive that included a late-hit penalty against Gering.

“I can’t tell our guys not to play on the edge of out of control,” said Rhodes, whose team committed four penalties for 50 yards. “Some of the things were frustration penalties, some of them were just ridiculous, even flops at times.

“We have to play smarter football, we don’t coach like that and the kids don’t play like that, and we’re going to get it fixed.

Stewart increased McCook’s lead to 26-0 on a 2-yard run with 3:02 remaining — again, ending a short, 36-yard drive.

After Gross decided his first-team defense had earned the rest of the night off, Gering drove 75 yards on 10 plays — aided by 33 yards of Bison penalties — to score with 9.6 seconds left on Smith’s 2-yard rush. Smith added the extra-point kick, giving him eight perfect PAT opportunities on the season.

Smith finished with 11 carries for 53 of Gering’s 57 rushing yards, which took 32 carries to net. Junior quarterback Dillon DeMott was just 6-for-20 in the air for 70 yards and had two interceptions.

Until the fourth quarter, McCook had held the Bulldogs to 84 total offensive yards and allowed Gering just 127 for the night.

“We ran the ball a lot of times, but we had to,” Rhodes said. “But we have to learn how to catch the football. It’s not like we don’t work on it, it’s not like we haven’t been throwing it since I’ve been here for nine years (the first seven as an assistant). It’s either going to be addressed, or we’re going to go to two tight ends and three backs.”

Rhodes said Northwest will provide a completely opposite offensive attack to McCook’s.

“They will throw the ball 70 times a game,” he said. “They will run twins and trips (receivers) every play, so we’ve got to be ready.”

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