Small college football: Taylor finds home with Vulcans
He played in front of 102,000 fans inside Ohio Stadium. He also had the opportunity to compete at Heinz Field in front of about 40,000.
So you can understand why it takes a lot to rattle Noah Taylor, California University’s senior defensive end.
Taylor is the brother of Jason Taylor.
Yes, that Jason Taylor, six-time former NFL Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins. Most likely a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
So don’t think that little brother Noah, the youngest of the family, hasn’t heard it all.
“They say, ‘You’re Jason Taylor’s brother, and that’s all you got?’” said Noah Taylor. “And I usually say, ‘That’s it? That’s all you got to say?’”
What Noah Taylor does have is a steady, calming influence for the Vulcans’ defense. And that will be important when Cal travels to Slippery Rock today for a game to determine first place in the PSAC West Division. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Cal and Slippery Rock each own a 4-1 record in the conference and have eyes on reaching the State Game as the division champion. A postseason berth will probably accompany that accomplishment.
Taylor is part of a Vulcans defense that is ranked No. 1 in the PSAC and will be charged with stopping the top offense in the conference, led by quarterback Nigel Barksdale. The game will be played at the 10,000-seat N. Kerr Thompson Stadium in Slippery Rock.
Taylor’s tour of some of the more spacious venues in college football came about because he originally went to Youngstown State and was part of a team that played against Ohio State and Pitt. Taylor, like his brother a graduate of Woodland Hills High School, spent a year at YSU before transferring to Cal three years ago.
“He’s really having a good season,” said Cal head coach Mike Kellar, who was coaching at Concord when Taylor arrived at Cal. “He’s been a (spark) for our defense. He’s smart, really smart. Someday, we’ll be working for him.”
Taylor has a degree in justice studies and hopes to have a career in Homeland Security.
His arrival at Cal would not have happened had it not been for upheaval at Youngstown State.
“I did good there, but they went through a lot of coaching changes,” said Taylor. “The head coach (Eric Wolford) got fired, and the new coach was cleaning house. It wasn’t a good fit for me anymore.”
Taylor said it took some time to figure out not only where he belonged but what his strengths were on the field. He admitted that originally, he tried to compare himself to his brother.
“Since I put the pads on, I’ve been Jason Taylor’s brother,” he said. “My teammates never call me Little Jason. I finally realized that this is who I am. I struggled with it when I first started. But no one can be compared to that. It doesn’t bother me anymore.”
Taylor is coming off his best game with the Vulcans, nine tackles in a 35-7 win over Gannon. He is fourth on Cal’s defense with 34 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. The Vulcans need a strong defensive effort against Barksdale, who has thrown for 2,790 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for another 235 yards. Slippery Rock has scored 50 or more points four times this season and is coming off a 44-20 win at Edinboro.
“Ideally, we have to keep (Barksdale) off the field,” said Kellar. “That’s easier said than done. We have to make first downs and sustain our drives to do that. Barksdale makes plays when things break down with his feet. That’s what makes him so dangerous.”
One way to control the football is to run it better, and Cal’s rushing attack had its best game in the win over Gannon, churning up a season’s-best 252 yards and 102 from Jeff Knox.
Quarterback James Harris is still developing since stepping in as starter in Week 3. He has thrown for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns, but Kellar seems to be putting more emphasis on the running game and the three tailback rotation of Knox, Derrick Fiore and Nick Grissom.
“We talked to the kids in camp about making it to the State Game,” said Kellar. “Some kids understood what’s at stake and what that game means for us. But you know it’s hard to get players to concentrate on what’s happening that day, let alone down the road. So we have tried to get them to just play good football between the white lines.”
Waynesburg got a boost last week with the return of quarterback Carter Hill, whose status was uncertain because of a knee injury suffered in a loss to Bethany. Hill’s performance – 33 of 52 for 300 yards and four touchdowns – sparked a 31-14 win over Geneva. That kept Waynesburg’s hopes alive for a PAC title. The Yellow Jackets are 4-2 in the PAC and 6-2 overall. Westminster is 2-3 in the conference and 3-4 overall. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Thomas More and Washington & Jefferson, which has an open date, are tied for first at 5-1.