Coach Cragg Discusses Top Season – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Coach Cragg Discusses Top Season

By nearly every measure, the 2012 Hobart football season was the best in the 119-season history of the program. The Statesmen toppled a lengthy list of team and individual records and at the top of that list is the mark for wins in a season.

Prior to this year, the standard for victories in a season was nine, shared by the 1896, 2004, 2005 and 2008 Statesmen. By the end of the regular season, Hobart had eclipsed that mark, running the table to a perfect 10-0 mark, joining the 1891, 1954 and 1957 Statesmen as the only squads to post unblemished regular seasons.

At least 11 team game and season records were broken as the Liberty League champions extended their winning streak to 12 games with NCAA playoff wins over Washington & Lee and Wittenberg universities. Also among the new Statesmen season records are points, touchdowns and sacks.

Nearly as many individual marks fell, most notably the season records for sacks and tackles for loss. Sophomore defensive end Tyre Coleman recorded 17.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss, raising the marks established by Dave Russell ’98. Coleman became just the eighth Statesman to earn first team All-America honors. Junior linebacker Devin Worthington and senior offensive guard Art Garvey garnered second and third team All-America honors, respectively.

In the classroom, eight student-athletes earned a spot on the Liberty League All-Academic Team. Senior quarterback Nick Strang, senior linebacker Nick Zapp, and junior offensive lineman Michael Green were elected to the Capital One Academic All-District Team. Green went on to secure second team Academic All-America® recognition, just the seventh Statesman to receive that lofty praise.

Two weeks after the season, AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Mike Cragg returned from recruiting for a quick Q&A about the team’s historic run.

Q: You’ve had some time to sit back and soak it all in, can you put this season in context?

MC: What an unbelievable ride it was. What a great ride. If you asked me before the season, I didn’t see it coming because I thought this team was as good as some of the other ones of the past, but what a great feeling. I believe it’s because my assistant coaches did a fabulous job and it was the seniors who made those guys practice hard and prepare the right way. We went in prepared better than I thought we ever have for the games this year. It was a great, great ride, I loved it. To go undefeated in the regular season, to make the NCAA quarterfinals, to play in December, those are all great things. I have a little bad taste still with the St. Thomas loss, but that will drive us next year to try to get back.

Q: At what point in the year did you start to think to yourself, “This is a special team?”

MC: Probably Utica [a 45-26 win on Sept. 15]. Knowing they had a four-year starter at quarterback, knowing they had a very good team, knowing that going to their place for a night game was going to be a very difficult place to win. They had already beaten Union [45-17] and St. Lawrence [40-7]. We jumped out to the early lead. They came back and we were able to finish them off. Then I knew we had a team capable of going 10-0.

Q: One of the keys to success you talked about in the preseason was the offensive line because they were so inexperienced with just one starter back. How were you able to pile up more than 400 yards per game this year?

MC: Honestly, to me, it was [Offensive Coordinator] Kevin DeWall who worked the magic. Having him as the offensive line coach, knowing the strengths and weakness of that group and the strengths and weaknesses of the offense overall. It’s not like a quarterback coach is your OC and doesn’t have as much familiarity with the o-line. He knew it. Kevin put them in good positions and [senior quarterback] Nick Strang continued to grow as a quarterback and made good decisions with the ball and at the line of scrimmage with audibles. The last part was [senior guard] Art Garvey got the young guys all to play together, him and [senior tackle] Tyler Garvey worked with that offensive line. But I would say it started with Kevin.

Q: When you got to the end of the regular season at 10-0, did you hear from a lot of alums and fans?

MC: I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I heard from, more this year than probably the 20-some years I’ve been here. I heard from alums, recent alums, alums from the ’50s and the undefeated teams, and people I’ve never met. Everyone was just jumping on board and feeling good about Hobart College and the football program. It was a great to hear from everyone. I tried to answer everyone back. It was a lot of fun to talk with them.

Q: Is there a memory or a moment that you’ll take with you from this season?

MC: For me the best was Rochester [a 43-24 win]. It put it all together. It was the 10th game of the season. It was winning the Centennial Cup. It was holding up the [Liberty League Championship] plaque and the Cup afterwards. It was inviting all of the fans, alums and friends to come out on the field and take pictures with their kid with the plaque and the Cup. That was my favorite moment of the year.

Q: Your guys put a hurting on the record book this year. Two part question, which record-breaking performance was the most impressive and second which one surprised you?

MC: The team records, the undefeated regular season, winning 12 games, playing in December, those are the best ones and the most surprising because I didn’t see them coming at the start of the year.

Q: What is the biggest challenge next year?

MC: It’ll be convincing the team that 2012 has nothing to do with 2013. When they come back in January, it’s time to go back to work. It will be getting our guys to realize that so much of our success was our senior leadership and now we have to develop new senior leadership. The great thing is they saw it, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be it. They have to be as dedicated and it has to mean as much to them.