By BRIAN LESTER
Eight days remain until camp begins for the University of Findlay football team. And if you think expectations were high the lastt three years under head coach Rob Keys, they will be even higher this year.
The Oilers closed their 2013 season as one of the hottest teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, winning four consecutive games and not turning the ball over once during the run. That streak is a part of a stretch where the Oilers, after a 1-2 start, won seven of their final eight. If UF wins just one more game a year ago, it is a playoff team. That is how close the Oilers were to making it to the postseason for the first time in the NCAA Division II era of the program.
But as Keys told me after the season finale last November, he didn’t get into coaching to go 8-3 and not make the playoffs. He didn’t get into coaching to win eight games and not win a conference title. And I’m willing to bet his players aren’t playing football just to go 8-3 either.
The Oilers have enough talent and depth to be a contender for a GLIAC crown and postseason berth. They also have plenty of motivation.
But if the Oilers are to meet their expectations, if they are to take this program to a level it has never seen, consistency is the key. You can’t have flashes of brilliance here and there on a Saturday afternoon and expect to win. You have need 60 minutes worth of flashes of brilliance. The offense has to be able to capitalize on more scoring opportunities and punch that ball into the end zone every chance it gets. Too often last year, the Oilers left points on the field.
The defense also struggled at times, getting burned for big plays far too often, but I think the 41-21 debacle against Ohio Dominican on national television last October was blessing in disguise. That loss beat up the pride of the defense, and from that night forward, they vowed to be better. And they were, holding each of the last four opponents to under 30 points. If they can limit the big plays that cost them a few wins last year and be consistent, good things are ahead for a defensive unit that showed a lot of promise in the spring.
I expect the Oilers to come to camp ready to go, ready to work their tails off to be the best possible team. They will come to camp ready to win each day. The players know what kind of potential they have this year, and if they take care of business like they expect to, they will see that potential turn into results on the field in what could very well be a special season.
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