The football season is a long, grueling, nearly three-month grind. Between the practices and games, the athletes rarely get a day off, which makes the one bye week that occurs during the season all the more valuable for coaches and players alike.
For football novices, a bye week is the one week during the regular season when a team doesn’t have a game scheduled. Coaches will likely give their team time to rest and recover from the nagging injuries that are a part of the game.
Depending on the schedule, most teams have a bye around the middle of the season, often near the end of September or the beginning of October. For Marist football, the respite comes after just one game, barely a week into September.
Last year, Jim Parady’s side had a similar quirk on their schedule. They were slated to begin the season at Georgetown, followed by a bye in week two. When the game against the Hoyas was canceled because of COVID, Marist effectively started its season with two consecutive byes.
The Red Foxes may have been well-rested going into last season’s delayed opener (a 37-14 loss at Columbia), but they then had to endure the rest of the schedule, including eight conference games, without any additional breaks, leaving little time for the player to rest.
Now, a similar fate awaits Marist this season. They’ll host Columbia next Saturday before going into eight PFL games and then finishing the season with a non-conference trip to Bucknell. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s one week on, one week off, and then ten weeks of non-stop play and preparation.
In football, injuries and fatigue tend to pile up as a team gets deeper into the season. Players also tend to pick up bumps and bruises, which may not keep them from missing games, but increase in severity with each passing week.
After one game, the Marist roster may have picked up some of those customary bumps and bruises, but, with the unfortunate exception of kicker Luke Paladino, the Red Foxes did not seem to suffer any serious injuries.
So now, Parady has a team on a bye week preparing for a non-league game against Columbia that does not mean very much in the grand scheme of things. Marist hasn’t won a non-PFL affair since 2017 and has not defeated an Ivy League opponent since it joined the PFL.
It certainly isn’t an ideal schedule for the Red Foxes. In a perfect world, they would be playing the game at Bucknell this week, followed by Columbia on Sept. 17, with the bye coming sometime during the conference schedule. Coaches want the extra preparation for a conference foe, knowing that winning a league game moves them one step closer to the postseason. Yes, Parady and his staff should know what the Lions want to do for next week’s game, but he also has to grapple with how much of his hand he wants to show before conference play.
The week off may be useful for young quarterback Brock Bagozzi, who had a rough re-introduction to football at the Division I-AA level in the loss to Georgetown following last year’s cameo against Bryant.
Bagozzi completed 15 of his 27 pass attempts for 154 yards with a touchdown and interception. He also sustained some hits, including one from an unblocked defender that forced him to briefly exit the game.
“We as a whole just need this time off,” Bagozzi said after the game. “We need to prepare better, and I promise we’re not gonna be like this again.”
It’s not a great sign if the team needs the bye week just one game into the season. It’s another warning sign if he felt Marist came into its season opener underprepared when Georgetown was the one opponent the Red Foxes could spend weeks planning for.
Still, if there are any wrinkles that the coaching staff adds, would they really want to tip their hand in a non-conference game and allow other coaches within the league to watch that footage on tape?
Therein lies the problem of the early bye week.
Counting Marist, there are 11 teams in the PFL. A review of the league schedule shows that the Red Foxes have the earliest bye week in the league and that Marist is the only team to end its season with a non-conference game.
One positive is that the Red Foxes won’t have to deal with conference teams having extra time to prepare for them. Each of Marist’s eight PFL opponents has a game the week before.
But many of those teams will be fresher, with St. Thomas the only other PFL team to have its solitary rest week before the season really starts.
So, hopefully, Marist enjoys the early bye week, because, after this, there are 10 straight weeks of football. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Edited by Luke Sassa
Photo from Jonathan Kinane