By Dylan Butler
While the score might suggest otherwise, there was some positives to come out of St. John’s 31-6 opening day loss at the University at Albany Saturday.
The biggest plus for the Red Storm was the play of freshman quarterback Kyle Lauver. Despite being under constant pressure, Lauver was poised in the pocket, going 13-for-21 for 226 yards and one touchdown.
“He faced unbelievable pressure and he made some real good decisions,” said St. John’s head coach Bob Ricca. “We’re down because of the loss, but we’re real pleased with Kyle.”
Lauver, who was 7-for-10 in the first half for 137 yards, used his quickness to elude defenders and find the open man on several completions.
“The speed was a little bit different than I had seen in high school, but I felt good,” Lauver said. “I made some mistakes, but being out there and leading the team really gave me some confidence.”
Ricca was also pleased with Matt May, Lauver’s main target on the afternoon. The junior wide receiver led St. John’s in receiving with 119 yards.
“He had a real fine day,” Ricca said of May. “He caught some short balls, he caught some longer ones. It was probably his best receiving day of his career.”
One of Ricca’s biggest concerns heading into the Red Storm’s second Northeast Conference game of the season at St. Francis (Pa.) Saturday is protecting his quarterback. Led by defensive end John Bolt, the Great Danes sacked Lauver eight times.
Meanwhile, Albany quarterback Marcus Rotondi went untouched, throwing for three touchdowns as the Great Danes improved to 2-0.
“That is one stat that really jumps out at you,” Ricca said. “We have to put pressure on the quarterback and if we want to be successful we obviously [have to protect our quarterback].”
Rotondi, who threw for a career-high 177 yards, hit Jonathan Garrick on the right sideline and the flanker raced 76 yards to put Albany on the scoreboard. Bryan Bagstad added a 21-yard field goal in the second quarter to give Albany a 10-0 lead.
St. John’s answered back as Lauver hit sophomore fullback Derek Jones for a 54-yard touchdown pass to cut the Great Danes lead to 10-6.
Rotondi threw two more touchdown passes, a five-yard toss to split end Chris Phillis and a 32-yard strike to Garrick.
“We’re going to take this as a learning experience,” Ricca said. “There are definitely things we need to work on, but there are plenty of things that are correctable.”
As they head into their second game against the Red Flash, who are 0-2 and are coming off a 42-37 loss to LaSalle, Ricca said most of the Red Storm’s work this week will be on the offensive and defensive lines.
“We want to avoid getting sacked and get better production from the running game,” Ricca said. “On defense we want to get some sacks and prevent giving up the big play.”
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.