ANDERSON — In his second season as head coach of the Anderson University football team, Bobby Ladner believes he has all the pieces in place to turn the struggling program around. Now, he just needs those pieces to focus on one thing.
The word comes up again and again when Ladner talks about the 0-1 Ravens. In Year 2 of the offensive and defensive schemes, he expects it on both sides of the ball and on special teams.
“We have to get better in that area as far as executing the schemes,” Ladner said. “We’ve gotten to that point where we’ve got the players we need now. We just have to execute those schemes.”
The precision Ladner is looking for was missing in the Ravens’ season opener against Taylor. First-game jitters and rust led to early mistakes for a team still on the young side. The Ravens couldn’t recover, and the Trojans took home the Wagon Wheel for the sixth straight time with a 58-7 win.
Taylor, an NAIA program, is a tough opener for the Ravens, but Ladner said the game showed him that the coaching staff’s recruiting efforts have paid off.
“There is a difference in the programs right now,” Ladner said. “But compared to our conference and the teams we play, I think we’re better off because we have the talent that’s more comparable to our conference. So the things we tried to take out of Taylor were the execution part of things and doing things that we need to do in practice to be successful to win games.”
AU will open a three-game homestand today against Grove City. Ladner kept the Ravens in a regular routine this week, focusing on understanding their opponent — the 1-0 Wolverines of Grove City, Pa. — and how they will attack. Practice emphasized doing the little things like getting lined up correctly, all in the name of execution.
“They have a game under their belt now, so the nervousness thing and excitement of the first game is behind us,” Ladner said. “Now we need to settle in, and we can really do our deal and execute our plays.”
A senior-laden backfield is charged with leading the defense. Senior Tyler Ganus had 17 tackles and one pass breakup at Taylor.
Ladner would like his quarterback to take the lead on holding the offense accountable, but that position hasn’t quite been settled yet. Sophomore Brady Cavinee led the Ravens against Taylor, going 6-of-12 for 58 yards and a touchdown.
“We’ve got some good quarterbacks, and we’re hoping to settle on one guy before we get to conference,” Ladner said. “But there’s still a nice little race going on at quarterback.”
Three running backs also are competing for reps, including Johnell Worthan (nine carries for 44 yards against Taylor) and Edward Pupoh (11 yards on five carries). And Ladner loves his receiving corps, led by Marc Jones with three catches for 36 yards and the Ravens’ lone touchdown against the Trojans.
“We’ve got some good athletes, we’ve got to get the ball to them and let them perform,” Ladner said.
The AU coach hopes to look back at the end of the season and check off many of the goals the Ravens have set for themselves. He wants his athletes to be good students and represent the program in a positive manner on campus. But there’s one goal in particular that all the Ravens, winless in Ladner’s first year, want to accomplish.
“We want to win,” Ladner said. “We want to win and start making that turn in turning this program around where we can win.”