FORT VALLEY -- Seven games are in the books, yet its as if Fort Valley State has combined three seasons into one so far.
One was the season opener, a 36-21 loss to defending national champion Valdosta State that indicated the Wildcats could compete with quality teams.
Then things turned, with a loss at Savannah State. Two tight wins followed, but the Wildcats werent sharp in either one.
That lack of sharpness is why they havent won since, the three-game losing streak capped by a 41-0 loss to Washburn on Oct. 17.
It is very odd, wide receiver DeAngelo Smith said of FVSUs ability to make its own life difficult. Its what were doing; its not what theyre doing to us. Were basically beating ourselves.
Freshman Malcolm Eady is in his first season at FVSU but has the frustration of a veteran. He was moved from quarterback to running back and takes direct snaps in a Wildcat formation.
Weve got to come out with more intensity and more focus, he said. Weve got to turn up the intensity.
There havent been any players-only meetings, per se, although Eady all but admitted hed call for one if he was an upperclassman.
Nobody feels the frustration more than senior quarterback Eugene Smith, who returned to FVSU after two seasons away from school and the team.
He has completed better than 50 percent of his passes in only two games and staggered through a 15-for-43 game at Washburn.
I dont know what my numbers were, Smith said of last weeks game. I dont want to know.
Smith has been sacked 21 times, suffering a concussion against Tuskegee.
I knew on offense, (progress) was going to be a little slow, he said. But I didnt necessarily expect it to go like this, either.
FVSU hosts Concordia-Selma on Saturday for homecoming and then has SIAC games against Morehouse and Albany State.
The Wildcats (2-5) need three wins for a non-losing regular season and a trip to the conference championship game.
Thats not satisfying, the fact that we still have the opportunity ... Smith said of backing into the conference championship game as the winner of a bad division. The way that were playing ... Thats nothing we can be complacent about.
Simply playing some quality football on a consistent basis offensively is the priority, as is keeping penalties at a remotely reasonable level. Then, the offense has to keep its defense off the field a bit.
Its not like everybodys just messing up or we dont know what to do, Smith said. Its the one assignment, maybe didnt hold the block long enough. One block away from a 60-yard touchdown.
Naturally, a season spiraling down the drain for a team that battled the defending national champion so well can lead to issues in the locker room, especially with a top-20 defense keeping the Wildcats in games. Keeping everybody together is a natural concern when one side is doing so much better than the other.
Theres going to be some feelings like that, head coach Donald Pittman said. I dont think its to the point where it would be hurting the team.
The defense has plenty of returnees, so leadership isnt an issue. On offense, its another story.
I think thats what we lack, Smith said. Im definitely trying to stay up. Ive got to lead by example.