KINGS POINT, N.Y. – When his Mariners take on Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, there is one thing U.S. Merchant Marine Academy head coach Mike Toop wants to see: His team score first.
In his team's opening five games this football season, the Mariners have allowed their opposition to score first, one reason they are 1-4 entering the Liberty League encounter at Alumni Field in Worcester, Mass. at 4 p.m. Saturday.
"Obviously, from an offensive stand point it helps," Toop said in an interview on Thursday.
He noted that in the 41-21 home loss to powerhouse Springfield College that Kings Point fell behind 7-0, but tied it at 7-7.
"You always like to play from when you're ahead simply because you put pressure on the other team," Toop said. "That's been a focus for us because very game going into last Saturday, the previous four, we were always down by two touchdowns. Unfortunately, we were down by two touchdowns by halftime and then by three."
Toop said the turning point of Saturday's non-conference game was the Mariners' first two series of the season half. After Springfield kicked off, Kings Point lost the ball an interception.
"We don't do anything offensively," he said. "We give them the ball and they go down the field to score to put them up by three. I think that really killed us. If we could have stayed within two and gotten into the flow of the game a little bit faster, that might have been different. But it wasn't."
The Mariners (1-4, 0-1) did make it interesting, connecting for a pair of back-to-back touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull within 28-21 before the visitors pulled away with 13 unanswered points.
"We had the momentum in the game," Toop said. "We scored two touchdowns fairly quickly, got back into and needed a big stop on defense and didn't get it. From then they just dominated the last 11 minutes of the game. So that was kind of disappointing."
Worcester (2-3, 1-1) is coming off a heart-breaking 34-31 defeat at Union, losing on a 22-yard field goal as time expired in regulation.
"League game. Very, very tough." Toop said. "They have a bunch of kids back from last year. They scored over 30 point each of the last three weeks, so offensively they're moving the ball. Not only are they moving it, but they're scoring points. So that obviously is a concern. They're very, very tough at home. Defensively, they got a bunch of kids back. They're very active. They get after you hard. So, we'll have our work cut out for us. They're much improved from a year ago."
Last year Merchant Marine recorded a 26-9 home win over WPI.
In fact, last year the Mariners started out 1-4 before rebounding with a 3-2 finish in five consecutive Liberty games.
"When they're in the league, they're all tough. They're all tough," Toop said. "Part of the problem in sports these days is that you listen to all these analysts on TV and they tell you who's better than this guy and should win and all of that. It trickles down to this level. You look at the schedule, 'These guys are going to be really tough.' Hopkins, we knew was going to be a very, very good football team and we've scored more points against them than anyone this year. But you don't get into that. When you start looking at that stuff, you really get whacked. The bottom line is that they're going to be really tough."
Toop and his Mariners will find out how tough by late Saturday afternoon.
Quarterback Alex Coviello picks up some yardage against Springfield. Photo by Shawn Antonelli