In terms of preparation, McPherson College’s Bulldogs would appear to be behind the 8-ball going into their football season opener Saturday night at Bacone College of Muskogee, Okla.
The Bulldogs started preseason workouts one week later than the rest of the KCAC due to school guidelines.
Meanwhile, Bacone already has played a game and made quite a statement last week by upsetting No. 13-ranked and perennial power Northwestern College of Iowa, 41-33.
So the Bulldogs certainly have their work cut out for them as they kick off the Steve Fox era at 6 p.m.
Coverage on 96.7 KBBE FM begins at 5:30 p.m., with Nick Gosnell on the call and Steve Sell handling color analysis.
Fox said despite the shortened preparation, the Bulldogs are more than ready to play a game as they’re tired of going up against each other in practice.
“We got to that point at the end of our scrimmage last Saturday,” said Fox, who had been the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator before being elevated to the head spot following the resignation of Pete Sterbick after a 5-6 season. “The preseason has been short, fast and furious. But we’ve gotten a lot of work in in a short time. Even if we had been in a week before, we’d be at the same point.”
The teams met last year at McPherson Stadium and the Bulldogs frittered away a 21-9 halftime lead before losing in overtime, 37-31.
The Warriors shocked Northwestern Iowa last week even though the numbers just don’t add up. The Iowans permitted just 178 total yards, but Bacone feasted on seven turnovers. Six of its scores came off a short field following a turnover.
Fox is hoping his team can establish the running game. He’s been impressed with the play of the line, which hopefully will open some holes for returning back Terrance Jones. He was off to a great start last year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4. Fox said last week was Jones’ first opportunity to go live in a scrimmage and ran the ball very hard. Miles Balthazor, a freshman from Valley Center, has opened a lot of eyes in camp and could get some carries.
“Terrance handled the contact well last Saturday,” Fox said. “He hit the holes well and changed directions well. He’s our horse we’re going to ride.”
Jordan Hoffman returns at quarterback after a 2,300-yard passing season and now as a senior has the experience to make much better decisions. Expected top receiver BJ Oyefeso has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, but Ste’fon Walker has been lighting it up in the preseason. “Ste’fon is as special as they come with his speed,” Fox said. “We’ve also got some solid possession guys.”
The strength of the Bulldogs may be their defense. The front three of Ben Kimbrough, Grant Narcisse and Evan Clary is excellent, while linebackers Trent Forrester and Jimmy Wilson are superb. The big question mark, just as last year, is the secondary. Trea Lott and David Anderson should be fine at safeties, but the corners are inexperienced.
“We’ve tweaked some things. We’re going to bring a little more pressure,” Fox said of his defense. “We want to force the quarterback’s hand a little more.”
Bacone’s Colton Owen, a rangy 6-6 quarterback, completed just 9 of 30 passes last week for only 65 yards. David Chapman is a go-to receiver as he hauled in two scores. Damian Johnson and Roderick Mackey are the ranking running backs, though they combined for just 53 yards last week.
“They’ve got a new offensive coordinator,” Fox said. “They are running the quote unquote ‘Air Raid,’ so they’re lining up four wide and throwing the ball down the field. Our secondary is going to get tested.”
This will be the first of three straight road games to open the season. Mac has a huge order next Saturday at MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe, then opens KCAC play Sept. 20 at Bethel.