ESPN analyst Mark Dixon has added sideline reporter and play-by-play caller to his list of titles. He patrolled the sideline of No. 5 Johns Hopkins’ 15-6 rout of Siena on Friday and will provide analysis for the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic doubleheader in Jacksonville on Sunday involving No. 10 Denver against No. 18 Penn State and No. 15 Ohio State against Jacksonville. The former Blue Jays midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse, discussed his thoughts on the pace of play, Duke’s loss to Denver and one team that's not getting enough attention.
What resonated with you the most from the first full weekend of college lacrosse?
I think pace of play was really, really good. If you look at the scoring, you had Denver-Duke which was 14-12, and the Bryant-Colgate game was 14-13. So I think the intention of the new rules to increase pace of play has had its desired effect. Individually, look at the shooting numbers. [Johns Hopkins senior midfielder] John Ranagan took 11 shots against Siena and got three goals. [Senior attackman] Logan Schuss from Ohio State took 17 shots and scored seven. The good offensive players are getting their looks, and – not that those two have ever been bashful about taking shots – I watched the [Johns Hopkins] game, and with Ranagan, I think maybe with one or two, you were like, ‘Eh, I don’t know about that.’ But the majority were good, quality shots. I talked with [coach] Nick Myers this morning over at Ohio State, and he said the same thing about Logan Schuss. Maybe one shot was something that he’d like to have back. But they’re good, quality shot opportunities, and I think that’s the biggest thing that stuck out this weekend – the number of shots that were taken, the number of quality shots and the pace of play. People really seemed to be pleased with that. I guess on the flipside, especially with the Hopkins game being on ESPNU, a number of people were bellyaching about the hit calls and the amount of flags. They felt like that offset the pace of play a little bit.
Did you feel like the penalties slowed the tempo?
I’m a referee, and I know where the refs are coming from. We have been mandated this year – it’s a point of emphasis – to call hits to the head and neck area. So to me, no. You’re officiating the game the way you’ve been told to officiate. Officials don’t make the rules. We just enforce them. The coaches make the rules, the committee approves them, but they listen to coaches, and we’re just doing what the coaches have been asking us to do, and that’s to protect the players. If you look at college football and pro football, they’re protecting their players as well in the head and neck area. To me, were some of the calls questionable? Maybe. But it’s gotten to the point where it’s better to justify yourself making a call versus a player getting hurt by taking a shot to the head and then answering the question, “Why didn’t you call it?” That question could come from your assigner, it could come from the coach, it could come from the parents of a player who may end up injured. So to me, it is what it is, and it’s not going to go away, and players have to adjust.
No. 10 Denver knocked off No. 6 Duke, 14-12, on Saturday. How significant is that win for the Pioneers and how significant is that loss for the Blue Devils?