Five Things to Watch in The Old Rivalry

Five Things to Watch in The Old Rivalry

Jack Grossman

1. Manual Morale

Manual is coming off of two straight tough losses, losing 14-3 to Trinity and 28-7 to St. X in the last two weeks. These losses could have a negative effect on the team, causing them to lose confidence and continue to struggle again this week. However, Male is Manual’s biggest rival, and has lost to Manual the last four years, as well as six of their last seven meetings. These facts, combined with the two losses Manual has suffered in the past two weeks, could have a positive effect on the Manual squad, causing them to come out harder, stronger and with renewed purpose. Though this is also true of the Male team that has not had the barrel for four years, making it a must-watch factor in Friday’s game.

Design by Ian Johnson
Design by Ian Johnson

2. Quarterback play

The most important position in sports is the quarterback position, and the play of Male and Manual’s quarterbacks will impact Friday’s game. For Manual, Tim Comstock (11, #3) has had an up and down season. Outside of struggling against Ballard, Comstock was highly efficient throughout the first six games of the season. Comstock had a quarterback rating of 88.5, and had a 9/2 touchdown to interception ratio, according to MaxPreps. However, in the last two games, Comstock has struggled. After grappling through rainy weather against Trinity, Comstock completed just 12 passes out of 23 attempts, for a mere 89 yards. In the last two games, Comstock threw five interceptions and only one touchdown against St. Xavier and Trinity. Comstock has also completed only 52.12% of his pass attempts this season.

On the other side of the field, Male quarterback Davis Mattingly (12, #12) has had a stellar season. Mattingly has completed 60.2% of his pass attempts this season. Mattingly has also thrown 18 touchdowns against 3 interceptions (a 6/1 ratio), and has a 114.2 quarterback rating. Mattingly scorched the same St. X defense that bottled Comstock for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mattingly also has been inconsistent at times. Against Meade County, Mattingly completed only 13 of 28 passes for just 66 yards and a quarterback rating of just 50.8, and against Trinity, Mattingly threw for 191 yards on 18 of 33 passes completed and a touchdown for a quarterback rating of 81.8.

Mattingly and Comstock have both been up and down, which ever player brings his “A” game will give his team the best chance to win.

3. The battle in the trenches

The play of Manual’s and Male’s offensive and defensive lines could decide the game. Both defensive lines are among the best in the state. The Crimson defense has an average of 2.2 sacks per game, while the Male defense has averaged 2.1 sacks per game, which are both above the national average of 1.6 sacks per game, according to Maxpreps. Whichever defensive line can create the most havoc will give their team a better chance to win.

4. Defensive struggle

Both Male and Manual’s defenses are top 3 rated defenses in the state of Kentucky, according to MaxPreps. The top ranked Crimson defense has been outstanding all year, allowing just 6.75 points per game all season, and pitching three shutouts throughout the year. Manual has also forced six safeties on the season. To compare, there have only been three safeties in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision in college football since 2010, according to ESPN. The Male defense, rated third in the state, has also been stellar, only giving up 9.375 points per game. Male also has forced eight interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns), along with four fumbles. If both defenses continue to play at a high standard, then points will be extremely hard to come by on Friday night.

5. Special Teams need to be special

In close games, special teams can decide games, and both units will need to be up to the task on Friday night. Manual’s special teams play has been costly the past two weeks. A blocked punt in the Trinity game two weeks ago was returned for a touchdown, and took the momentum out of the Crimsons’ side. In the St. X game, another Manual punt was blocked after a miscommunication and was recovered by the Tigers in the end zone.

“There was confusion on the line, DJ (Smith) called one call and Jake (Rist) heard it and thought it was a fake punt call,” Chris Roussell (11, #46) said. “So Jake thought it was a fake punt, when it was not at all and he tried to throw it, and he got blocked, like last week, and they got a safety out of it.”

The Manual return game has been good all year. Jordan Gonzalez (12, #21) has been highly successful in the kickoff return game, including a 95 yard kickoff return touchdown against PRP. Manual will have to play better on special teams Friday night, against a Male team that has three punt return touchdowns on the season.