Holy Cross scored a major win this past weekend when the Crusaders rallied from a 21-0 deficit to shock Yale, 31-28, in overtime.
With his team 1-2 heading into this weekend's clash with Dartmouth, Holy Cross coach Bob Chesney spoke with MassVarsity over the phone Wednesday morning.
Here is an edited version of that conversation.
MV: It seems like this weekend was sort of a breakthrough type of win. The opening week at Colgate, you had a comeback and weren't able to finish it off, and then this weekend you were able to come all the way back and beat a very, very good team. What was it like for not just you, but the kids, to sort of finish one like that and get that first one on the board?
BC: It was great. I think that, obviously, to win one of those, you actually have to win one of those first. I think usually those types of things come in a few years from now. Usually, you don't have the ability to do it just yet. But the kids really believe. They believe in one another, and to be able to finish this one now, this Year 1, I think paints hopefully a nice picture for the future.
MV: I talked to (running back/wide receiver) Dom Cozier a few weeks ago, and it seemed like he had that real, "buy-in" attitude with what you were pushing with the team as far as being uptempo for some of it, and just sort of believing in themselves. How important was it to get that across to kids? You know, hey, you can beat good teams. You can be on the level of other really good teams, and you can win right away. It's not something that you have to wait for.
BC: That comes from their belief, honestly, and their ability. Let's not forget that part. Without their ability to be able to actually execute those things, it doesn't happen. So they have the ability. They believe in one another, and it's now about pulling every ounce of that ability out of one another. I think from coaches, to players, to everybody, that's what we're trying to do here. We're just trying to make sure it's your best, and it's your best all the time. Then, when the work has been put in, and when we've been there before, we've done it before. We've raised the stakes in practices, all those things that come with it. Then, they confidence that they can say, "We can do this. We can actually do this." You can't do it if you've never done it before. I think that just speaks to the volumes about the way we practice, and the pressure we put on each other in practice. We've had, I don't know, five to six different overtime periods in practice throughout all camp, and that showed up. It was something we had done numerous times before.
MV: What are some of the things you can do during a practice to raise the stakes, because I know that's something, especially during camp, when it's guys just going against themselves all the time, can be difficult to do. Not just to keep their attention, but to keep them up, keep the pace up, keep the tempo up. What are some of the things you like to do in practice you do that can keep that level of attention up?
BC: There have to be, really, winners and losers in every drill that we do. The winners get celebrated. The losers do a little bit extra work, whether it's sprints, or up-downs, or whatever it might be. Those are things that you raise the stakes a little bit and put some pressure on people, I think that changes things.
MV: When you look at your offense lately, what are some of the things you like the most that you've seen so far, and what are some of the things you need to get better at?
BC: I think the first couple weeks, we had trouble throwing the ball down the field. It just wasn't something that was clicking for us. I think, then, we were able to do that a little bit differently. I like that. I like the offensive line being able to protect the quarterback, but I also like the offensive line being able to be very physical, and then be physical for four quarters, and then some. I think that they're a good group, and that they have the ability to wear some people down when the third or fourth quarter shows up. So I think that those are things that stand out to me. Dom and Miles (Alexander) and all of our running backs are doing a super job, and the more that people have to play the run, it opens up the pass. So, you like a lot of it right now, to be honest.
MV: Just sort of the same thing with the defense. Obviously, you came in with great linebackers this year, but what do you see overall out of that group?
BC: Right, we did. We came in with four senior linebackers. Three of them did not play the last two weeks, and two of them will not play this year at all. So we're down to a freshman and a couple freshmen backing him up. We need everybody to give everything they have. There are a lot of people that haven't played in these positions before that we're asking them to play in these positions. And, again, they're doing a good job of giving us everything they've got.
MV: And when you look forward to the rest of your schedule, you've played some tough teams. Obviously, Boston College is a different animal, but when you look down the rest of your schedule, have these three first games given you the type of look where you say, "OK, we're prepared for almost anything now."
BC: Yeah. Yes and no. We suffered a few injuries in those in those first games because they're all so physical in nature. I think that usually this league and most leagues are won by who is the most intact at the end of the year. Whether there be discipline, or academic, or family issues, or injuries that causes some people to not be part of that team for the whole season. That's always an issue. So the types of teams that we play, it took a toll on us, physically. But, again, we need younger guys to be able to step up and play, and they're doing a good job of it so far. But, yeah, I think that playing those games instead of maybe playing a couple Division 3 opponents or something, certainly gives you a pretty good barometer of where you are, and a lot of things get exposed really, really quickly when you're playing great teams. And that's a good thing, not always a bad thing, especially when you come out on the winning side on one or two of those.
MV: You've had some time now at Holy Cross in your first season. I guess, what's it been like overall? You've got that first win under your belt, and you've had some time with these kids. What's been your experience so far?
BC: I think in the grand scheme of things, the time that we've had is relatively short. We got here in December. The kids didn't come back until the end of January. So we've been together for nine months, and three of them have been the summer months. It's not a long time together in the grand scheme of things. But I think we're beginning to learn a lot about each other. I think the trust in one another is starting to build more and more each day. I think those are some of the things that we need to do to be a complete team, and play like a great team. Although, again, we're asking a lot of young guys to play, and maybe they're not quite developed yet, I like their effort, and their energy, and their attitude, and with those things, you can accomplish a lot.