There have been many good moments through the first five weeks of the college football season.
Unfortunately for Merced College, there have been quite a few bad and downright ugly moments as well.
And no one has any idea which version of the team is going to show up any given week. Most coaches are just looking for steady improvement from week to week. Mistakes made in Week One shouldn't be made now, and MC seemed headed in a positive direction, up until a 41-17 loss to Diablo Valley College last week.
The Vikings were a very good football team to be sure, but the Blue Devils' showing was a definite step back. The run game has not been able to produce with any kind of consistency, and last week the offensive line appeared to get exposed a bit in its pass protection.
The MC defense has been solid, but it's undersized and can get worn down if the offense leaves it on the field too long. Going into the season not many would have thought that would be an issue, but the Blue Devils' potent attack has struggled with consistency the last three weeks.
Midway through the season Bob Casey's squad has raised more questions than it has answered.
"It's a mix of things, I think," Casey said. "You get to a certain point in the season where you have to incorporate other guys, because of injuries and other things, and it's tough to get that continuity.
"Getting more guys reps will make us a better team in the long run, but it takes everyone a little while to get up to full speed.
"If I had an answer as to why it's been up and down, I'd obviously fix it. All we can do is focus on the next week and keep pressing through."
MC will close out nonconference play this week with a trip to Sacramento City. The Blue Devils then turn their sights towards what they hope will be a rejuvenated Golden Gate Conference title run.
MC doesn't have any pushovers the last five weeks, but Casey knows the opportunity for a win is there in all of them.
"The five games left on the schedule are very winnable," Casey said. "We're getting into the part of the season where are opponents are much more comparable to ourselves.
"We're built similarly. We've had similar schedules. Now you're going to probably see us have a little more success in the areas we've struggled, because the teams are more evenly matched."
MC (2-3) will look to get back to .500 on Saturday night against a Panthers (3-2) team that has won three close ballgames in a row. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Quarterback Ronald Beverly (1,447 passing yards, 13 touchdowns) leads a spread offense that will put the ball in the air almost 60 times per game. The Panthers also have a talented running back in Logan Lanier (666 rushing yards) to help keep defense honest.
Sac City has also been a risk-reward team, turning the ball over 17 times while forcing 14 of their own. MC (15 turnovers) has been very opportunistic defensively and should get opportunities, but will need to be stingier with the ball on the offensive side.
The Panther defense has had its issues with the passing game, which could mean good opportunities for Jarrell Davis (32 catches for 385 yards and 5 TDs) and Tyrell Vinson (25-360, 3 TDs) to intercept.
"Their running back is very good. They have some receivers that can do things in space," Casey said. "They have a couple returns for scores, so our special teams needs to be alert and they've been very opportunistic defensively.
"We're going to need to have a balanced game. We're a team that can't leave points on the field like we have, and we've shown we're not going to be real successful having to come back from a couple scores.
"If we take care of what we need to take care, there's an opportunity to have this be a real good trip."