It's a new era for the Canisius College football team but the same old problem lingers: Will the Griffs find a way to score?
Canisius hasn't averaged more than 20 points a game since 1990. It's no coincidence that was its last winning season. The Griffs are 12-26-1 since.
The man in charge of stopping the slide is 61-year-old rookie head coach Chuck Williams. The defensive coordinator the last three years, Williams is getting his first chance at being a head coach in a 33-year career that also includes stints at North Tonawanda High School, UB and Buffalo State.
"I'd really like to ride the wave of enthusiasm that change usually engenders," Williams said. "We have a lot of talent back (18 starters, including 10 from the defense) and that makes me pretty excited."
Canisius was 2-8 and averaged only 13.6 points per game last year. Coach Barry Mynter resigned after an abysmal season-ending 14-0 loss to Duquesne, one of five contests in which the Griffs didn't hit double figures.
"We didn't move the (first-down) chains with any kind of consistency," Williams said. "It's a field position game and both sides contribute. As a result, we were playing an awful lot of defense."
The roster's top returnee is All-American punt returner Aaron Fix, whose four punt return touchdowns -- three in a win over Siena -- set a national Division I-AA record last year. The senior from Batavia is a defensive back by trade and is expected to move from free safety to strong safety so Williams can take advantage of his aggressiveness in some eight-man fronts.
The quarterback will be a newcomer, either junior Paul Marvar from Syracuse or sophomore Aaron Wysko, a North Tonawanda grad who bench-presses over 300 pounds.
Mynter ruined the offense last year by constantly giving the hook to quarterbacks Jason Beckman and Ben Kucia. Williams promises he won't make the same mistake.
"We'll know the plays we want at certain times and their audibles," he said. "We'll rehearse those situations instead of going through all our plays in practice when you know you don't use the whole playbook in a game."
But Williams has to realize the offense might still struggle this year. Tailback is another huge question mark in the wake of Turhan Jordan's graduation. The most experienced returnee is junior Scott Phillips, who had only 183 yards last year.
Receiver is a strength. Junior Mark Kolbe and sophomore Tom Bernardo combined for nearly 900 yards and all six of the Griffs' aerial TDs in '94. Now if somebody can just get them the ball. Center Jon Sanfratello, a senior captain, anchors the line.
Despite its record, Canisius was 23rd in the nation last year in total defense and figures to be strong again. Sophomore end Scott Dochat led the team with 6 1/2 sacks as a freshman and junior end Frank Zabawa (West Seneca West) added six. Fix anchors a strong secondary that also includes senior captain Bryan Fetzer.
Williams has a three-year contract, so he'll be patient. And being 60-something won't make him speed up the timetable.
"I'm patient in some things, but I'm intense in other ways," he said. "I'm in a hurry only in the sense we want to turn this around as quick as possible. My wife and I were talking recently that when you thought about your grandfather when you were young, you looked at them as old people.
"When you get to be a grandfather, as I am, I can still jump over four-foot fences, so I don't think about that."