Football looks to improve following winning season

By Olivia Gutierrez

LOGOS STAFF WRITER

The University of the Incarnate Word completed its first winning football season with a record of 6-5.

That achievement included a 5-1 home record with a season-ending 7-0 loss Nov. 16 to visiting Angelo State University and UIW’s first defeat of Abilene Christian University – an even sweeter 34-31 home victory Nov. 9 after losing 40-6 to ACU on Oct. 19.

Confidence and exuberance effervesced from the football team Nov. 9 as they entered Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium, determined to avenge their disappointing away loss against ACU and retain their perfect home record.

Within the first five minutes of the game, freshman running back Broderick Reeves scored the first touchdown of the game on a four-yard run, and by halftime, UIW maintained a 21-14 lead. However, at the end of the third quarter, things began to appear bleak for UIW as ACU pulled ahead 31-21.

Once the fourth quarter began, UIW picked up its intensity. Casey Jennings scored his second touchdown of the night via an 11-yard pass from freshman quarterback Trent Brittain. The point-after kick was blocked, making the score 31-27. UIW quickly regained possession after ACU was unable to complete a first down and steadily drove on towards the end zone. With almost two minutes remaining in the game, Brittain rushed for a one-yard touchdown, electrifying the team and the crowd. But the fight was not yet over. ACU etched closer to the end zone and scored a touchdown, which was revoked because of a penalty. On second and goal, ACU’s quarterback was sacked and fumbled the ball, which UIW’s linebacker, Joel Higgins, recovered, securing the 34-31 home win.

  With a winning season clinched but wanting to go out 7-4, the Cardinals entered the Nov. 16 game against Angelo State more relaxed, yet confident in their capabilities to achieve another home game win.

In the first quarter, Brittain completed several good passes, but UIW’s running game was stopped by Angelo State’s solid, tight defense. During the second quarter, UIW’s Brandon Tankers Ely, Robbie Horton and Nick Ginn played solid defense and kept ASU from scoring. Going into halftime the teams were scoreless. In the third quarter, UIW was able to move the ball into field-goal position but was unable to capitalize because of a bad snap, and ASU took possession of the ball.

On the next series of plays with less than five minutes remaining in the quarter, ASU marched 85 yards for a touchdown, making the score 7-0.  Beginning  the fourth quarter, ASU was able to move the ball into field-goal range but missed the attempt from the 25-yard line. Several minutes later, Angelo State regained possession by intercepting a pass from Brittain. Incarnate Word’s linebackers Ginn and Padyn Giebler made several good stops for no gains against ASU, who etched closer to the end zone. With less than three minutes remaining in the game, UIW wide receiver Jordan Hicks caught a 20-yard pass to get a first down and set the team into position for a touchdown. With less than two minutes remaining and 22 yards from the end zone, UIW futilely attempted several passes to tie the game.

The loss of the last game and the eradication of the perfect home game record did not affect Head Coach Larry Kennan’s optimistic perspective.

“Every week, we learn more about ourselves.” Kennan told the players after the loss. “We’re 6-5, and we’re going to own that. We met our major goals, which shows how far we’ve come as a team. Our guys are really good people, hardworking, and determined. I’m very proud of our players.”

Giebler said, “After coming off the big win against ACU, we were still high off the win and weren’t too focused because we’re a young team, but we know how to fix our mistakes for next season. It was a big step having a winning season and being Division I. Our expectations were raised, and it was nice achieving our goal.”

The team is pleased overall with the season but not satisfied, said senior fullback Matt Bass.

“We need to realize that it’s never going to be enough,” Bass said. “We need to push for more and keep working harder and harder and never be content.”

Reflecting back on the success of the season, Kennan said, “I don’t think we won or lost any games we should’ve. We’re much better in every regard and totally transformed. We need to make a similar growth because next season will be even more difficult. Our offense and defense need to be bigger, faster, stronger, and more mature.”

The difference in the success of the season, according to the players, was Kennan’s positive mentality, relaxed yet challenging method, and organized plan, all of which have had obvious results — a winning season.

“I’m most proud of the team because they do the right thing in football and in life — most of the time,” Kennan said. “I’m more proud of what classy young men we have more than our winning season. I tell the players that you’re accountable all the time. You represent me, the coaching staff, and UIW football.”

Looking to the future, the head coach said he plans to continue growing his team by recruiting even better players and envisions his team, in three years, competing at a high level — even for the championship.

But before then, Kennan stressed, there’s “lots of work to do.”

 

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