It's a time of mixed emotions for James Dozier, a Morgan State senior from Randallstown and a four-year football starter.
He is delighted to be back at defensive end, his favorite position, after a stint at linebacker. But he is upset about the team's losing ways (0-3), is tired of hearing, "What happened?" on Sundays and Mondays and is angry about the lack of support by students and alumni.
A year ago, when he played defensive end for the whole season, Dozier wound up with a school-record 12 1/2 sacks, including another record 4 1/2 in a 27-7 win over North Carolina A&T.
"It's technique and how you come off the ball," Dozier said yesterday of his sacks. This season, he has a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference-high of 7 1/2 , with another 3 1/2 in last week's 49-0 loss at A&T. Morgan State plays at Morehead State on Saturday in a first-time meeting between the two schools.
"Often times, you can tell when the quarterback is going to pass. The key is getting off the ball quicker and driving in at an angle rather than going straight ahead," Dozier said. "On film, you watch how the offensive player opposite you lines up, what he does with his first step on a run and on a pass."
Defensive coach Bubba Green, a member of the staff for six years since a knee injury brought an end to his pro career with the Baltimore Colts, says: "He's exceptional. He has good quickness and rushes better from the 'down' position. He works well at the end spot, and our young linemen respect him. He is helping them get better."
Of the losses, Dozier said: "It's hard; it hurts, but you come out knowing you did the best you could. What really has killed the defense is the other teams capitalizing on our mistakes. We're such a young team, they are bound to happen, but in the first couple of games, the inexperienced players were letting their mistakes bother them as the game progressed.
"The players got together for a team meeting a couple of weeks ago. The veterans said they understood the mistakes, but not to dwell on them. We now pep each other up, and we are much more unified."
Shortly after the meeting, Reno Lucas, a junior linebacker, had said, "Early on, it was a case of 'I'll do my job; you do yours,' but after we got together and aired our gripes, all the players realized they had to look out for each other and now I think we are better disciplined."
Dozier also took off on what appears to be a sore subject for him.
"Until I got here, everywhere I'd played, there was always alumni and student support and a lot of spirit. The lack of it here makes me mad. Some of the alumni played football and ought to be giving something back. We need their interest and their spirit."
Last year, the Bears started with three wins and a tie, and their defense featured some trick moves as well as the regular stunting and safety blitzes. This year, the defense already has been changed from a three-man to a four-man front, looking for some effectiveness, but the schemes of a year ago still seem to be lacking.
"When you do different things, the quarterback starts getting nervous because he doesn't know what's coming next, but this year our defense seems more passive. We just aren't doing some things we have done before," said the four-year starter.