Merced College football coach Bob Casey struggled to contain his frustration.
Losing a fifth straight football game on Saturday afternoon was tough enough to swallow. But going from being in complete control with 2 minutes, 36 seconds left in the first half, to having every phase of his team's game fail at once had Casey livid.
The Blue Devils gave up two scores in the last two minutes of the opening half to allow Laney back into the game. MC never regained momentum and fell 35-24 at Stadium '76.
"We aren't good enough to be overcoming self-inflicted wounds," Casey said. "The defense disappeared in the second quarter. The offense did nothing in the second half, and our special teams coverage teams were the worst they've been all season."
Things started brilliantly for the Blue Devils (2-7, 0-3 Golden Gate Conference), particularly offensively.
MC drove 64 yards on its opening possession and had the drive capped by a Rudy Monteon 7-yard touchdown run in his second career start.
The Blue Devils scored on four of their first six possessions and drove into the red zone on five of them. The running game and sophomore Corey Chapman led the way.
In his first significant playing time of the season, Chapman ran wild.
The former Buhach Colony star had runs of 35, 79 and 69 yards in the opening half, the last two of which went for touchdowns as MC built 17-7 and 24-13 leads.
Chapman finished with a game-high 249 rushing yards, but 235 of those came in the first half.
"We started well," defensive end Jarrod Mounce said. "We were prepared and we were executing.
"Then we lost the tempo, I guess. We just never got it back."
The MC defense started well, but came unraveled in the second quarter.
Laney scored touchdowns on three straight possessions to close the half, racking up 210 yards in a little less than four minutes of possession.
Trailing 24-13, the Eagles (2-1 GGC, 3-5) got the ball back with 2:36 to go in the half. They needed just three plays to march 75 yards, as Charles Cobbs found Xavier Milton with a 48-yard touchdown pass.
The pendulum permanently swung Laney's way on the ensuing possession.
MC got itself into field goal range with 29 seconds left in the half, but Daniel Mouro's 53-yard attempt never got any height.
Jamal Mayo caught the ball in the end zone and returned it 45 yards to give Laney a couple shots at scoring before the half. The Blue Devil secondary fell asleep with three seconds to go in the half and Cobbs found a wide-open Aaron George with a 45-yard Hail Mary pass that gave the Eagles a 25-24 lead at intermission.
After its poor second-quarter showing, the Blue Devil defense upped its game in the second half. Laney's Edgar Pulido hit a 27-yard field goal on the Eagles' opening possession of the second half, but the Eagles were pretty much silenced the rest of the way.
Unfortunately for MC, it was the offense's turn to pull a disappearing act in the second half. After racking up 267 yards of total offense in the first half, the Blue Devils could only put together 66 in the second half.
They had no series longer than six plays or that accumulated more than 21 yards, and that drive had a roughing the punter call to prolong it.
Pass protection was one of the major issues as Monteon (5 of 13, 41 yards and two interceptions) was sacked six times and eventually knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter.
After spending a good portion of the second half on the field, the defense finally wore down and Daron Duong (three TDs) struck for a 30-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left to put the game away.
"Laney didn't do anything different," Casey said. "They came at us with basic defensive schemes and we just couldn't match up man for man.
"We can game plan all we want, but it comes down to effort. We didn't have enough of it today."