3rd down conversions haunt GWU

Oct. 29, 2013 @ 04:28 AM

This time around, it wasn't the turnovers that hurt, it was the lack of conversion.

In a 24-0 loss Saturday at home against Big South rival Liberty, Gardner-Webb was 0-for-10 on third down midway through the third quarter.

After that, the Runnin' Bulldogs (4-4, 0-2 Big South) managed just 3-of-6.

But, head coach Carroll McCray was more concerned about the downs prior to third.

"The key to third down is the first and second down," McCray said. "It comes down to an inability to run the football."

In a dismal performance, Gardner-Webb had eight of their 14 drives stall out after four downs. In fact, they had just one drive go more than eight plays in the entire game. The lone possession that did last was a 13-play, 57-yard drive which ended on a turnover on downs after the running game failed to pickup a key fourth down conversion.

Not that the passing game was all that accurate during the drive.

Quarterback Lucas Beatty had three incomplete passes — including two that ended the drive — throughout the entire series.

"It was like a mental thing," said wide receiver Deonte Swinton. "One person missed an assignment and it messed the whole thing up."

In the previous two games, the running attack was there but hanging on to the football was the issue. The Runnin' Bulldogs had six turnovers that turned into 37 points against Charlotte and Coastal Carolina.

Saturday, holding on to the football was not an issue for receivers or running backs. But, holding on to the football was a struggle for a team that averaged over 35 minutes total possession heading into the game against Liberty.

Gardner-Webb managed to hold the football for only 27 minutes for the game.

For a team that prides itself on being able to run the football, Gardner-Webb had minus-13 yards on the ground in the first half.

"It comes down to really starting up front," McCray said. "There were times we started the play well but we didn't finish."

The offensive line struggled to create holes for the running game and to protect Beatty, who was sacked five times on the day.

It made for a long day for Beatty who did manage to throw for 200 yards on 21-of-37 passing and didn't have an interception.

"Their D-line gave us problems up front," Beatty said. "It wasn't anything we didn't expect."

The offense only managed to cross midfield four times in the game, getting no closer than the Liberty 19 — which came on the only sustained drive of the game.

They stayed in their own territory through the first quarter. The only time in the first half they made it past the 50-yard line was in the opening drive of the second quarter when they reached the Liberty 45 but turned the ball over on downs.

"There was always one thing we screwed up on," Beatty said. "We have to eliminate that one thing."

They will have this week to work on those "one thing(s)" before hosting Warner (Fla.) next Saturday at Spangler Stadium.