With the first game of the season looming around the corner, Truman State University football is shifting their preparation into high gear. The Bulldogs have hit the practice field on a near-daily basis since Aug. 7, with a one-day break every seven consecutive days of practice.
Junior wide receiver Drake Raftery said the pace of the training can be a mental drain as well as a physical one, but the team is used to the work. Raftery said the athletes are excited for the new season, but he stressed the importance of maintaining focus leading up to the starting gate.
“The key about this year is how healthy we’ve been while still remaining to work hard,” Raftery said. “We don’t have any particular focus more than usual, but we just want to focus on consistency in all three phases: offense, defense, and kicking game… We have to focus each day and not look ahead too much to make sure we are improving each day to become a better team.”
Redshirt junior quarterback Jaden Barr echoed Raftery’s statements on keeping the team’s mind in the present.
“Taking things one day at a time, focusing on the details and being consistent in executing will help us accomplish what we’re after,” Barr said. “Capitalizing on opportunities, especially in the red zone. Taking care of the football is also an area of emphasis for the offense.”
Barr added that the beginning of the semester is his favorite time of the year because the athletes get to meet up after months apart. He said it’s nice to focus only on football and train with the team to outlast the competition.
Head coach Gregg Nesbitt said the Bulldogs took a hard loss last time they were matched up against Michigan Technological University, the team Truman will face Aug. 30. He said the biggest culprit in the loss was special teams play, and Michigan Tech repeatedly reached Truman’s red zone through several costly punt and kickoff returns. He said in preparation for Truman’s home opener, the Bulldogs’ kicking game had to be ready for action.
When looking at the Bulldogs’ past season records, Nesbitt said success in non-conference play will be key to a strong record.
“We’ve been pretty consistent over the last five seasons and won about 60 percent of our total games,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve won around 70 percent of [the GLVC games] though, so we’ve consistently had the chance to compete and won, but the non-conference games pull our record down a bit. We need to play better outside our league — these first four games of our schedule.”
Nesbitt also said Truman is a good team with smart athletes, regardless of record.
“We’ve won three straight sportsmanship trophies, we’ve got the most academic [All-GLVC] guys, I think 169 over a five-year period,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve been quietly consistent there. We’ve got good students who compete hard, and they compete with class. We’d like to continue that.”