MU Football: Improving, but Still Struggling

by: Nick Vitale

As the third season of the Misericordia football program comes to a close, the Cougars find themselves at a 1-9 record once again.  This is the second year in a row that Misericordia managed to beat the same team twice.  So far, FDU-Florham is the only team that Misericordia has conquered at home and on the road.  Despite the Cougars struggles, the team has been showing signs of improvement on both sides of the ball.  As an announcer for the Misericordia home football games, I have seen the Cougars make adjustments that could really help them to win more games next season.

On offense, the Cougars have been utilizing both Jeff Puckett and Brandon Leap at the quarterback position.  Puckett is more of a duel threat because he is able to run the ball extremely well and, this season, he has proved that he can throw the football even though he does not do it often.  Puckett ran for 1,241 yards this season which is insane for a quarterback along with 641 yards passing.  He also had nine rushing touchdowns and four touchdown passes.

Brandon Leap is only a freshman this year and he has already proven to be an excellent pocket passer by racking up 220 yards and one touchdown pass.  That does not sound like a lot, but that is not a bad amount when you are the backup quarterback on a D3 team.  I believe that Brandon Leap is the future of this Misericordia team if he can stay healthy. I think he will turn the offense into a menace moving the ball through the air.  For the past three seasons, Jeff Puckett has carried this offense on his back so it would be nice to see Brandon Leap pick up the slack and give the Cougars a passing game.

This might sound crazy, but I think that the Cougars should switch things up on offense and make Brandon Leap the new starting quarterback and make Jeff Puckett a running back.  Since Puckett runs the ball better than any other player on the Cougars, putting him in as running back would be the perfect position for him.  I think Leap is a lot better at moving the ball through the air than Puckett.  Misericordia has good receivers and Leap utilizes them well.  Puckett does not attempt to throw the ball often and when he does it is usually overthrown.  But Puckett’s ability to throw the football has improved tremendously within the past year.  I think putting Puckett at the running back position would diversify the Misericordia offense and it would keep opposing defenses guessing.  This would also help the Cougars develop a solid running game so that they can work on their passing game.

On defense, the Cougars have been forcing more turnovers and putting a lot more pressure on the quarterback.  When the Cougars played against Stevenson last Saturday they had two forced fumbles, an interception, and one sack.  It is rare when the defense is able to force any turnovers against their opponents.  There is always room for improvement though.  The Cougar defensive line could use some more size up front.  The secondary’s coverage has been decent but they need to improve on reading plays and watching the quarterback’s eyes when he is throwing it downfield.  Overall, the defense has shown signs of improvement, but they still need a lot of work in order to help Misericordia win football games.

Despite the improvements, the Cougars still have a long way to go as a football program.  They are still struggling on both sides of the ball.  The passing game has been pitiful which has forced Jeff Puckett to carry almost the entire offense on his back by running the ball up the middle himself on almost every play.  The Cougars can move the ball on the ground, but that’s about it.  I think if Misericordia tries to experiment with many different plays and maybe even change up some players positions they will see even more signs of improvement.  I think the players and the coaching staff are slowly figuring out what works and what does not work.  They are slowly getting better as a football program.  The only direction to go is up.

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