With the Glendale Community College football's offense still trying to find its way, there's been a lot of pressure put on the Vaqueros defense early in the 2012 season.
Glendale's defensive unit rose to the occasion and inspired hope for GCC's 2012 campaign when the Vaqueros defeated El Camino-Compton College on the road, 27-10, Sept. 1 as they forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) in the victory.
Defensively, Glendale college was overworked last Saturday. The Vaqueros netted just three first downs and 54 yards on offense (16 passing, 38 rushing), which kept their defense on the field for a long time in a 35-0 loss to San Bernardino Valley College.
While the Wolverines racked up 500 yards against GCC last week, Rome has seen improvement from the group under new defensive coordinator Marcus Turner.
"Our defense has been playing well in comparison to the last couple of years," said Rome, whose team is looking for its second win in a season for the first time since 2009. "Their tackling is better, their pursuit to the ball is better and from a scheme standpoint they do a good job of understanding where they need to be in relationship to each other. I think coach Turner and the defensive staff has done an excellent job in preparing them."
Glendale's defense has a chance to flex its muscle today when it travels to San Diego Mesa College.
The Olympians sport a story similar to Glendale's through two games, as they opened with a 30-8 win over L.A. Southwest Sept. 1 before falling to a tough Grossmont team, 36-7, last Saturday.
For the season, Olympians quarterback Joe Kennedy has completed 19 of 44 passes for 251 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Steven Okidi is San Diego's primary running back, as he's ran for a team-high 128 yards in 37 carries.
The main area the Olympians have struggled in this season has been on the offensive line, particularly protecting Kennedy, who has been sacked 15 times for a total loss of 100 yards.
When asked if the Vaqueros will look to exploit San Diego's offensive line today, Rome's answer was simple and came with a chuckle.
"I certainly hope so," he said. "I hope so."
Still, Rome is also concerned with getting his offense up to speed, as it's averaging 145 yards a game this season (100 rushing, 45 passing).
"Our emphasis this week has been on correcting the mistakes that we've made on offense and defense," said Rome, who specified about what needs to be "repaired" on offense. "That has to be blocking assignments for our young players and execution at the quarterback position — the very rudimentary parts of the offense we need to correct."
Two hundred of GCC's 290 yards offensive yards have come on the ground this year with Collin Keoshian leading the team with 77 yards and a touchdown in 26 carries.
Rome said there's been a lot of moving parts early in the season with players being cut or added, which has made it difficult for the offense to "mesh correctly" early in the season.
Glendale's quarterback position has been up in the air most of the week, as Rome decided not to name his starter until the end of the week based on who proved himself in practice.
Freshman Nick Blackmon has started both games under center for GCC so far and completed eight of 21 passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Blackmon struggled against the Wolverines as he completed two of eight passes for 16 yards and an interception.
Freshmen Isaac Valdez and Nate Weston have both seen time at quarterback for Glendale this season, but neither have connected on any of their three passes.
"Of course, you always look at upside, potential and what they could possibly be," said Rome of choosing a quarterback. "We're looking for them to do the right thing, execute the offense and make it as potent as it possibly could be at this time."