FORT WAYNE – Coach Speak 101 says that the most visible sign of improvement at any point in a football season is between the first and second games.
Kevin Donley thinks that adage will hold true when Saint Francis opens its home season Saturday against Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium. Kickoff is at noon.
The Cougars opened the season earlier than they have in the past with a rare August game Saturday in Tyler, Texas, where they beat Texas College 46-10.
I think we’ve got a way to go yet, said Donley, who can tie the retired Frosty Westering as the NAIA’s winningest coach with 256 wins with a victory Saturday. I think we kind of scratched the surface, particularly on offense. We’ve got more new faces over there – five new guys. We’re still finding ourselves there.
You score five touchdowns offensively and you think, we’re not too far off, but I think we can get a whole lot better. We’re pretty good, but we can get better.
Here are a few Donley observations of what he saw last week and what he hopes to see Saturday:
Quarterback: I’m able to evaluate circumstance. They changed systematically on defense, entirely. I could have had him (starter Josh Miller) a little bit better prepared. We didn’t work at all on what they did. And I think when you’re young, you need to simulate what you’re going to see on game day.
Running backs: (Antoin) Campbell and (Kyle) Mathewson are very good. They’re very strong, and they’re going to get stronger with every game.
Receivers: I thought (Colin) Harruff had a pretty good game. (Aaron) Knight had a good game. We didn’t get the ball out to the wide side of the field very much. We had (Austin) Coleman on one touchdown called back. They called him for pass interference; kid just grabbed him and held him. I don’t know how they called pass interference on him. It was blatant.
Offensive line: We had three out of five new guys who were getting their first start. As they grow and get confidence, our running game will get better. ... There are still technique errors when you have some redshirt freshmen playing. I think we run block better than we pass protect.
Defensive line: Strong defensive line. As we went on, (defensive coordinator Warren Maloney) turned the heat on and we went after them and got some sacks and pressures and tackles for a loss. We came after them pretty good.
Linebackers: (Brody) Kalbaugh is very good, (Justin) Juarez is very good, (Quinn) Doan is very good. Outside guys, Devin Rush, boy, I’m really happy we moved him from inside out. He really played well. He had some big hits and made some big plays.
Secondary: Our secondary played well with the exception of one (play). Two guys were in coverage and tripped over each other and the kid got behind them and got the ball and scored. Other than one pass play, I thought we played pretty well back there.