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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Opinion: Golden Eagle Football is ‘Getting Better’

  • Things are coming together. Holes are being fixed. Here comes the sun, Golden Eagle fans.
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  • "It's getting better all the time. I used to get mad at my school."
     
    For those of you that don't know, those are the lyrics from the song "Getting Better" on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.
     
    It fits well with Minnesota, Crookston Golden Eagle Football. Things are getting better for the Golden Eagles.
     
    Things are coming together. Holes are being fixed. Here comes the sun, Golden Eagle fans.
     
    There's no doubt that the road ahead is long and winding but fans of the Maroon and Gold are seeing progress.
     
    As "Getting Better" continues Paul McCartney sings "A little better all the time." Following that line the background singer says, "It can't get no worse."
     
    Again, that's Golden Eagle Football.
     
    A 39-game conference losing streak: sure it could have gotten worse, I guess, but after losing 20 consecutive conference games, then 30, it really can't get much worse.
     
    At some point losing becomes like death and once you've lost enough games you've lost. Just like once you're dead you can't be more dead.
     
    Thankfully, things did get better for first-year Head Coach Paul Miller and his Golden Eagles on Sept. 22 of this season with a 33-28 Homecoming win over Southwest Minnesota State.
     
    UMC star running back Richard Haley put up monster numbers to lead his team to victory that day. He earned NSIC Offensive Player of the Week honors, rushing for 232 yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns.
     
    Things got a lot better last Saturday with the thrilling 37-36 win over Mary in Grand Forks to cap the season.
     
    The team in those maroon and gold uniforms at the Alerus Center did not look like the same team from earlier games this season. They were confident, aggressive and under control.
     
    UMC had two NSIC wins this season, two more than they've had each of the past three seasons.
     
    Haley was named to his second career All-NSIC North Division First Team. The last time a Golden Eagle did that was R.J. Rollins in 2004 and 2005.
     
    Star linebacker Cecil Brown finished with the second most tackles in school history with 326 in 43 career games.
     
    Junior defensive back Freedom McCullough is tied for second all-time with eight interceptions.
     
    Page 2 of 2 - In just one season, Marcus Cheatham, a junior wide receiver, broke UMC's season and career records for touchdown receptions with eight.
     
    It's getting so much better all the time.
     
    Quarterback A.J. Barge threw for 318 yards last Saturday against Mary.
     
    When's the last time a Golden Eagle threw for more than 300 yards in a game?
     
    It's only happened twice before! First, Chris Zellmer threw for 309 yards in 2005. Then, Tim Ennis threw for 325 yards back in 2008.
     
    School records are being threatened with every game, every season and every career, and that's a crystal clear sign of improvement.
     
    Another sign things are getting better is the turnover margin. Each of the past two seasons the margin has been -2. In 2010 it was an astonishing -20.
     
    The Golden Eagle defense is also improving, allowing 225 passing yards per game in 2009 and 206.5 in 2010, ranking in the bottom half of the NSIC. Last season UMC allowed 188.6 passing yards per game, ranking it sixth in the conference. This season the Golden Eagles allowed 202.7 yards per game, ranking them fourth in the NSIC.
     
    One area that has to improve if UMC is going to get even better is stopping the run. In each of the past three seasons the Golden Eagles have allowed more than 220 rushing yards per game. That's not good.
     
    Clearly the road ahead is going to have its bumps but there is no doubting Golden Eagle Football is on the right road.
     
    Coach Miller has to be given loads of credit for assembling the staff he did and bringing in the players.
     
    But Miller and his staff have their work cut out for them. This offseason will be key in improving the defense and offensive line. UMC needs to find ways to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Also, bringing in players and redshirting them is something that's critical in building a successful program.
     
    The foundation is being laid, though, and it is great to see.
     
    I've got a feeling the Golden Eagles will win four games next season.
     
    Hopefully I won't look like the fool on the hill for saying that. I just hope it's not when I'm sixty-four.
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