SCSU FOOTBALL: Kevin Lynch likes what he sees this season
NEW HAVEN — Kevin Lynch flashes a smile as wide as the end zone when he assesses his receiving weapons. The veteran Southern Connecticut State quarterback has a wealth of options, all of them possessing both savvy and skill.
“My only job is not to overthrow them,” Lynch said. “And with their speed that isn’t easy.”
Lynch intends to focus quite a bit on his downfield threats this season while the Owls refocus on landing another Northeast-10 Conference crown. That title eluded Southern last year and the mere thought of it still stings.
“Anytime we go 6-4, we’re obviously not satisfied with that,” Lynch said. “We felt we could have been better but we weren’t.”
There are many reasons why the Owls underachieved last season. To a man they were not satisfied with what turned out to be the program’s 10th straight winning season for veteran coach Rich Cavanaugh.
“We have to eliminate the mistakes that led to the losses,” said Cavanaugh, who is in his 27th season with the club. “We had untimely penalties. We had some breakdowns. We didn’t get off the field enough defensively on third down.”
Said Lynch: “We struggled in the red zone. It was us failing, It was man-on-man and we didn’t get it done and we ended up losing some times and that was the difference.”
Mostly, said Cavanaugh: “We have to finish games.”
Cavanaugh said there were times last season that his team probably didn’t prepare well enough for the next opponent.
Said Cavanaugh: “It’s like that saying, ‘Respect all, but fear no one.’ I don’t know if we truly prepared well enough for each game last year.”
Even Lynch admitted the Owls thought they were better than they were.
“We lost focus at times,” he said.
They both agree that won’t happen this season.
“There are no easy games out there anymore,” Cavanaugh said, “and they know that now.”
The Owls don’t have to dig too deep for proof. For the first time in five years Southern Connecticut won’t begin the campaign as the NE-10 preseason favorite. That honor goes to cross-town rival New Haven.
“(New Haven) earned that honor,” Lynch said. “They won the title last year and they beat us so they should be the favorite. But everyone’s goal is to be first at the end of the season not at the beginning.”
Southern was picked to finish second in the conference by the slightest of margins, just one vote. And it certainly has the star power to not only reclaim the crown but return to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in three years.
Lynch is a preseason D2 All-American and set four school single-game passing marks (receptions, attempts, yards and touchdowns) last year. Andre Privott and Willie Epps have emerged as playmakers. They combined for 19 touchdowns last season. Add in tight ends Jerome Cunningham and Nick Mandich and Lynch can pick his poison when he airs it out.
That firepower on the edges will make running back Rashaad Slowley a threat to be one of the top backs in the nation. Now a senior, Slowley has flashed moments of brilliance for years in complimentary roles to All-American backs Jarom Freeman and John Wiechman.
Slowley could be even better.
“He could have a really big season,” Lynch said. “He’s a special player.”
Slowley said during the spring that he would like to top the 1,500-yard mark this season. If his line, which is young and unproven but has had a solid camp, succeeds, Slowley could do it. He rushed for nearly 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons while splitting carries.
But while the offense is vintage SCSU, a unit that typically averages near 40 points a game for years, Cavanaugh is beaming about his defense.
“The strength of our team is up front defensively,” he said, “and the linebackers are probably the best we’ve ever had here.”
Gavin Nelson, Sam-uel Johnson, Chevar Rankins and Jack Petion are the quintessential quartet of linebackers. They all have speed and experience. They can stuff the run and rush the passer and could be, week in and week out, the best of any unit on the field.
The first test begins on Saturday as the Owls open the season at Central Connecticut State at noon.
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