Sound Off: Holy Cross Coach Takes Blame

Published by Max N. Brondfield on September 20, 2010 at 10:11PM

In the modern era of sports, being a college coach carries with it the burden of constant media attention. Facing dozens of reporters at press conferences, head coaches have gotten more savvy—they say what they need to and leave the rest up for speculation. Here at The Back Page, we’re happy to decode some of these media sessions, showing the average fan what we think coaches’ answers “really” mean.

The Harvard football night game got plenty of press for the quality of play from the boys in Crimson. Senior Andrew Hatch and freshman David Mothander earned player and rookie of the week nods, respectively, and the 34-6 drubbing of Holy Cross appeared to stem from the home team’s all-around solid play. But there was one man who wasn’t ready to give Harvard all the credit. Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore largely attributed the lopsided score to the Crusaders’ deficiencies in this edition of Sound Off.

What Gilmore said: “We went against a very good football team that did execute. I’m looking at what Harvard did in all three phases of the game, and nothing they did surprised me. I thought we were ready for what they did, we just didn’t play well enough…I would say 95-plus percent [of the Crimson’s defensive schemes] were things we had prepared for, and we should have been able to execute better.”

What Gilmore means: To be fair, the coach did concede that Harvard played a fundamentally sound football game. But Gilmore was undoubtedly giving the Crimson a little verbal jab when he implied that the team’s game plan was unimaginative. Apparently, Hatch’s nearly flawless first-half passing was only the result of poor play on the part of the Crusader defense and had nothing to do with offensive coordinator Joel Lamb tailoring the scheme to the quarterback’s strong arm. The Harvard defense’s ability to totally eliminate the run must have been a fluke as well.

What Gilmore said: “The one [third down play] that really stands out, we had the quarterback wrapped up in the backfield for a sack and we can’t bring him down. And that’s not a physical thing, it’s a mental thing…I mean we had him tackled from behind, we just have to wrap up and pull him down. Instead we tried to yank him down and he slips out of it.”

What Gilmore means: Here the coach is referring to a crucial third-and-long near the end of the first half, when Hatch was nearly brought down by a crashing Holy Cross defensive line, only to escape and sprint to the left sideline for a 17-yard first-down scamper. Frankly, Gilmore’s spot-on with this assessment. Hatch, who did display excellent running ability on 11 attempts throughout the game, still had no right to escape the would-be sack. When defensive linemen get a hold of a quarterback’s jersey, the play should be over, and Gilmore’s frustration was more than justified. Nonetheless, playmakers always give defenses fits, and it seems that we may see more of the same from Hatch throughout the year.

What Gilmore said: “[The Crimson is] a very good football program right now. I’ve been dealing with Harvard for a long time, and they’ve had a long tradition of that.”

What Gilmore means: After being pushed for much of the interview on the Crimson’s strengths, Gilmore eventually decided to stop stonewalling the media. After a few curt responses, the coach conceded that Harvard coach Tim Murphy’s program might have earned some of the attention it has received following a decade of high-quality football. Although it’s easy to criticize Gilmore for withholding credit for much of the press conference, he is not the first coach to focus on what his team must do to improve.