Somebody's "O" has to go on Saturday night.
Sure, in boxing parlance, it's a phrase usually reserved for a matchup of unbeatens, but for one night in Santa Barbara, it's an apt billing for today's 6 p.m. Pacific Conference American Division clash between the winless Glendale Community College and Santa Barbara City football teams.
"It's been such an uphill fight and we've come so close in games with teams that are leading the division, such as West L.A.," said Glendale Coach John Rome, whose team fell to 0-7 and 0-3 in conference after losing to West L.A. at home, 35-13, on Saturday. "We've come so close without a quarterback and now that we have one, we feel it's added a dimensionality to our offense that we need."
That quarterback is sophomore Kevin Hunter, who returned to practice this week after being held out of football activities for the last four weeks and missing the past three games with a kidney injury suffered against Allan Hancock on Sept. 24.
While Hunter's likely to have some rust following the long layoff, Rome said he still represents the best option Glendale will have at quarterback on Saturday by far.
"I'm buying the RustOleum myself," Rome quipped. "He's playing, no matter what."
During Hunter's absence, Glendale has gotten virtually no production from the passing game, which has produced 12 completions in 27 attempts with three interceptions and no touchdowns. GCC has managed to remain competitive for at least parts of all three games, however, thanks to a rushing attack that has inched its way up the Southern California rankings to fifth with an average of 198.3 yards per game on the season after averaging 265.6 per contest while Hunter was on the shelf.
"We've been actually getting a lot of compliments from other coaches, people we've played that go, 'Wow, it's really quite amazing in this day and age what you are doing with just a running game," Rome said. "That's really a tribute to our offensive line, they do a great job. They practice hard, they work hard all the time."
But, as good as the running game has been, it hasn't been able to carry the team to a win. The lack of a passing option always seems to hurt Glendale in the end, whether it's time literally running out on a comeback attempt at L.A. Valley on Oct. 1, or West L.A. making defensive adjustments and shutting out the one-dimensional GCC offense in the second half Saturday. Hunter, who passed for 585 yards and four touchdowns this season before getting hurt, may be able to provide the offense with the variation needed to put together a complete game.
Santa Barbara, which checks in at 0-8, 0-4, can relate to Glendale's struggles to formulate a passing attack, as the team has been unable to replace the production lost from the departure of last year's starter, John Uribe (2,554 yards and 23 touchdowns), and is currently floundering at 34th (124.1 yards per game) in Southern California, two spots above Glendale (95.1).
"They seem to be [inexperienced at quarterback] and they make a tremendous amount of those mistakes that young players make quite often," Rome said of Santa Barbara, which is averaging a SoCal-worst 6.6 points per game and has broken single digits only once this season. "They play good defense. …We certainly aren't taking anybody lightly."