This year, the Trinity University football team is off to an impressive start, having won their first four games for the first time since the 2011 season. Head coach Jerheme Urban attributes the team’s success this season to the team’s strong finish during the 2014 campaign and to the work that the players put in during the offseason.
“The guys have been working really hard. They really started coming together, understanding what we were looking for on the back half of last year,” said Urban.
Urban also noted that the momentum for the victories last fall was carried over to the spring practices and that the work the players put in during the summer was evident.
“They’ve come in with a no-nonsense business-type mentality this fall,” Urban said. “It’s carried over to a good start.”
That mentality starts with the veterans of the team setting the standard of how the team will approach each practice and each game. One of those veterans, junior linebacker Luke Packard, believes that the team’s strong start is due to the starters being a year older and having been in the same system for another year.
“This year we’ve had a lot of growth because last year we had a lot of younger guys playing,” Packard said. “Now people are stepping into their roles more.”
When asked about the success the team has encountered this season, Packard complimented the coaches on the game plans that they prepare each week, adding that the team as a whole has really come together.
“We have a good, competitive environment,” Packard said. “We’re all really close, which makes it really fun to play.”
With the 4-0 start, the confidence is starting to build throughout the team. Senior wide receiver Cody Sandman echoed Urban’s statements about the work that the team put in throughout the offseason.
“The confidence is a lot higher this year,” Sandman said. “A lot of people are surprised (that we started 4-0), but it’s really expected for us and we have much higher goals.”
It is very clear to Urban that this year’s team wants to be great, and Urban knows that his team is not getting caught up in the moment and their hopes for a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship.
“We have a very motivated group and they are very focused on being great,” Urban said. “They know that’s only going to come if we treat every opponent with the utmost respect.”
Over the past four games, the team has approached each game with the mentality that Urban instilled in them, which is to “treat each game as a game we can be beaten in, if we don’t approach it the right way.”
It is for that reason that this year’s team has gotten off to the start they have. Even with the team’s impressive start to the season, there is still work to be done.
Sandman believes one issue with the team is that the offense needs to start making more plays and not relying on the defense as much as they have been.
“Offensively, we just have to start executing more,” Sandman said. “We have a lot of playmakers but we’re just not executing right now as a unit.”
Sandman praised the defense on their ability to get the job done on a weekly basis, and acknowledged that the offense would have to start making more plays in the bigger games. One way to help the offense do this is to provide the offense with a better starting field position, which is one thing that junior linebacker Julian Turner believes the team needs to improve on.
“We could improve our field position, making sure we’re not starting within the 20 every time we get the ball,” Turner said. “Just putting the offense on the good side of the field (would be helpful in) not putting defense on too much.”
Packard believes that even though the team won, there is still a lot to be desired for future games.
“[We need to] keep on trying to improve because we left a lot of things on the field last week,” Packard said.
Reflecting on the last game, Urban was very happy with the performance he saw in the third quarter against Pacific Lutheran.
“As a team, we really showed what we’re capable of in the third quarter when we outscored them 17-0,” Urban said.
All three units, offense, defense and special teams, played well in that quarter and Urban wants to try to duplicate those results into a full game.
“Truly, we haven’t played a full game all year, and our challenge is to play with that third quarter mentality from this point forward,” Urban said.
One aspect of the team that has been crucial to their success is winning the turnover battle.
“Our goal is to protect the ball on offense and to go get the ball on defense,” Urban said. “We’ve done a really nice job with that.”
As for the football game this weekend, Urban believes that winning the turnover battle will be crucial in the game against the Hardin-Simmons University, who are ranked no. 15 in the nation for Division III in football.
“We’re number seven in the country and they’re number eight in turnover differential,” Urban said. “Both of us have been very opportunistic with the football.”
With all the success that the team has been having, it is difficult to not be consumed by thoughts of winning the championship.
Packard admitted that one of the team’s goals is to win the SCAC championship, but said right now it is not his primary focus.
We still have so much work to do it’s hard to really focus on those [goals],” Packard said. “They are in the back of your head for sure. Right now, I can’t really think about anything else besides Hardin-Simmons.”