By BRIAN LESTER
If there is one thing the University of Findlay football team has learned to do over the last eight years it is to start its season on a high.
The Oilers have won their last eight openers, including a 37-34 win over seventh-ranked Indiana (Pa.) at Donnell Stadium in 2002, and there is no question that it is important for UF to run its season-opening streak to nine games next week.
UF opens against Tusculum (Tenn.), a team that struggled through a 3-7 season a year ago but appears ready to get back to its winning ways.
The Pioneers return 43 letterwinners, including 15 starters, and you better believe they will carry the pride of the South Atlantic Conference lead into Donnell Stadium on an early September afternoon for a noon non-conference encounter against UF.
The interesting thing about Tusculum is that it was an NCAA Division II playoff team two years ago. It won the SAC, a very good football conference, and played in the postseason for the first time in school history.
The Oilers are hoping to follow a similar storyline this year. They are hoping to win a conference crown in a league that one could argue is the best in the country and they are trying to make the playoffs for the first time at the D-II level.
Both are lofty goals, and yet, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big. Winning a GLIAC title isn’t impossible but it won’t be the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. A playoff berth is certainly within reach.
To keep it in reach, however, the Oilers need to start the season with a win. They need to prove that last season’s 7-4 record was no fluke and put themselves on a path toward more success this year.
Losing the game wouldn’t be the end of the world, obviously, but it would give the Oilers a bigger hill to climb if they ultimately want to make this season one to remember.
Notes on Tusculum:Here are a few quick notes about the Tusculum, which opens its season this Saturday against Charleston.
The Pioneers are led offensively by sophomore quarterback Bo Cordell. The SAC Freshman of the Year threw for 3,458 yards, a D-II freshman record, and connected on 23 touchdown passes.
Senior wide receiver Calvin Britt will be one of his favorite targets. He caught 16 passes for 261 yards last season and scored 5 TDs. He has nearly 1,500 yards in his career and a total of 17 TD receptions.
Senior linebacker Zachary Norman will help anchor the defense. He made 69 tackles a year ago and has 111 in his career. Senior defensive lineman Jermaine Jennings made 33 tackles in 2009.
As a team, the Pioneers averaged 29.4 points per game and allowed 39.2. They averaged only 32.9 yards per game on the ground but put up 358.8 yards per game through the air.
The Pioneers fumbled the ball 11 times and had 17 passes picked off. They converted only 31 percent of their third down opportunities.