Loyola knows where it needs to improve

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CHICAGO — After a Week 2 win over Edwardsville, Loyola football coach John Holecek said he didn’t have a large enough sample size to assess this season’s team.

But one week later, after Loyola’s 16-13 loss to Brother Rice in the Catholic Blue opener Friday, Holecek had a better feel for the Ramblers.

“We have a lot of things to work on,” Holecek said. “I really like where our defense is, and we have great potential there. Offensively, we have to come around.”

Usually a source of competence, the special teams was a mess against the Crusaders, costing the team 13 points. Going forward, Holecek said he’s “not too terribly worried about that.”

“We definitely had some gaffes in every single department of special teams, but they were freak things,” he added.

Holecek has few complaints, if any, about his defense, which was without senior safety Ryan Zinkula, who was nursing an injured shoulder.

Against Brother Rice, Loyola’s defense was on the field twice as long as its offense, but it still played well enough for the Ramblers to win. The defense held Brother Rice to 104 total yards, totaled five sacks and limited Crusaders senior running back Marcus Jones to 31 yards on 20 carries. The Northern Illinois recruit had five rushes for a loss.

“That was one of our best defensive performances, pounding a Division I back like that,” Holecek said. “We never do that against that kid.”

The offense isn’t helping the defense, though. According to Holecek, the quarterback situation between senior DJ Melsheimer and junior Emmett Clifford is unresolved, and the running game has been substandard.

Loyola (2-1) got 22 yards from its running backs Friday, and Melsheimer and Clifford both took snaps.

“Our offense has been a little inconsistent,” said Loyola senior center Mike Carlin, who’s one of two returning starters to the offensive line. “We definitely have to pick up our running game. We didn’t establish it at all against Brother Rice. We really have to step up everything.”

Holecek said this week’s starter at quarterback will depend on who looks the best at practice this week. Melsheimer was the starter in Week 1 against Marquette (Wisconsin), but he was replaced by Clifford in the second half against Edwardsville.

“We are re-evaluating again,” Holecek said. “We have to start playing better on offense because we are going to face some really good defenses soon.”

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Ramblers. Their next four conference opponents are ranked 14th or better by the Sun-Times.

While nobody wanted to lose Friday, senior defensive lineman Tom Dreher chose to look on the bright side.

“It was a benchmark for us, showing us what we need to correct,” he said. “It’s easy to look at a win and move on. What makes a good team is seeing how you can fix things and come back better.”

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