GLENDALE — Last year, the Glendale Community College football team started out a torrid 3-0, but in the end it didn't count for much, as the Vaqueros finished 4-5.
The shoe is on the other foot two games into the 2010 campaign, as the Vaqueros still seek their first win.
But as shaky as the young and largely inexperienced team has looked in its two nonconference losses, third-year Coach John Rome knows it still has plenty of time to turn things around before and during conference play and angle for a strong finish.
"That's one of the things that we talk about all the time is that we don't have to win our first games to win the division," said Rome, whose team moved to the Pacific Division of the American Conference this season. "Our goal is to go to a bowl game and that's gonna entail winning our conference. We have to win all or most of our conference games to accomplish that goal, so therefore, it's about how we progress."
With its 39-22 loss to Golden West on Saturday indicating progress in some areas from a 39-22 loss to Pasadena City College in the Sept. 4 opener, Glendale has two more nonconference games to further build its strength, with the first coming up today at 6 p.m. at East Los Angeles.
"It's another challenge," Rome said of the matchup. "From where it was three years ago, I think East L.A.'s done a tremendous job rebuilding their program and getting quality athletes in there."
East L.A., which was defeated by Glendale, 33-28, last season, in which it finished 5-5, is also coming in at 0-2 this year.
The Huskies have experienced offensive struggles, failing to score a touchdown in last week's 6-3 loss to Santa Monica. But they do possess the second-ranked defense in Southern California, allowing 194.5 total yards and 17 points per game.
Ranked fourth in Southern California in defending against the pass and second against the rush, East L.A. could pose problems for the Vaqueros' dual offensive objective of asserting the running game and helping first-year starting quarterback Steven Batista get more comfortable under center.
"I would hope that we continue to have offensive improvements," Rome said. "I would like to see us be able to run the ball a little better because we have a great stable of young backs. The problem is we've had nothing to bust out with.
"And, East L.A. is much improved on defense. Most of their team speed is on defense. We're going to have to find a way to get [tailbacks] Antonio Bray and Rashon Harper the ball in space."
In addition to giving Bray, Harper and Joshua Nakamoto room to make big plays behind a nearly all-freshman offensive line, Rome would like to see Batista, who was eight of 21 for 150 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions last week, start to make better decisions.
"Turning the ball over as many times as we have or making some of the errant throws that we have, it's not conducive to good offense," Rome said. "[Batista's] been around the program, he just hasn't played a lot of quarterback. His advantage in holding onto the job is that he knows the vernacular of the offense."
The Vaqueros' defense has regressed so far this season, currently ranked 31st in Southern California after giving up an average of 40 points per game so far.
But Rome said the first key to helping the defense get stabilized will be keeping it off the field for extended periods.
"It's growing pains from an offensive standpoint; we're young," Rome said. "It puts pressure on our defense because, offensively, we don't sustain drives and we don't keep our defense off the field."