The Truman State University football team will play its last regular season home game this weekend against the Bearcats of McKendree University.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs stuck to their winning ways on the road against William Jewell College. The ’Dogs offense put up 42 points with another seven coming from a 40 yard pick-six by defensive back Griffin Becker in what was Truman’s fourth conference win of the season.
The team is now 7-1 overall and 4-1 in conference play. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at third place in the Great Lakes Valley Conference behind next weeks opponent, the University of Indianapolis, and Truman’s only loss of the season, Lindenwood University. The Bulldogs will need to win the remainder of their conference games and rely on Indianapolis defeating Lindenwood this weekend to clinch their first GLVC Championship since 2016.
As reported earlier this season, the ’Dogs approach to each week is unchanging. Head coach Gregg Nesbitt and his team are always focused on doing whatever it takes to best their opponent. This business-like attitude is something that Nesbitt has implemented over his tenure with the team, and this season has been no different. While the Bulldogs certainly have championship aspirations, Nesbitt said he wants his team to rely on the culture that it has built over not just this season, but the players’ careers as Bulldogs, to carry them each week instead of looking ahead.
“I tell the kids all the time, ‘It’s not my football team, it’s not the coaches, it’s yours as a player and you need to take ownership of it,’” Nesbitt said. “Thinking we’re a good team is half the battle.”
Nesbitt recognized that this season’s team is different from teams of the past. While he said he and his staff believe that the talent of the 2019 team is consistent with past teams, Nesbitt said that this team’s ability to grind out wins even when it is not at its full potential might be what separates it from the crowd.
In week four, the Bulldogs lost two starters in their secondary including Conference Commissioners Association special teams first-team all-American Lawrence Woods. Since then, the defense has yet to be at full strength, but has still played well enough to help the Bulldogs to their best record in over 20 years. Finding a way to win has been this team’s mentality all season, and Nesbitt said he thinks this needs to continue for the Bulldogs to make a playoff push.
“Good teams find a variety of ways to be successful in terms of winning and losing,” Nesbitt said. “There’s no question that early in the season we were hanging our hat and leaning on our defense and kicking game. Early on we had a high ceiling because our offense hadn’t quite caught up. And now it has been, ‘How good can our defense become with some of the major hits they’ve had?’ And now they’ve played good defense the last two weeks.”
Nesbitt said he believes that his team is finding its stride yet again, and is getting back to playing complementary football, with both sides of the ball and the special teams unit having success. He said the coaching staff hopes that the toughness of this season’s group along with the balanced design of their team will give them an advantage moving into the final stretch of the season.
Nesbitt has been steering the Bulldog ship for ten years now, and has already moved into the top three all-time wins leaders in Truman’s history. This season has given him an opportunity to reflect on his time in the sport, and Nesbitt said he has had a deep appreciation for this year’s team.
“My favorite moment every day is our team stretch,” Nesbitt said. “I don’t take it for granted because one of these days I’ll hang up my cleats for good, so I’m just appreciative to be taken along for the ride at this stage with really good football coaches and players and really good senior leadership.”
The ride for Nesbitt and the Bulldogs is not over yet. With the current conference leader looming on next week’s horizon and a postseason berth all but clinched, the Bulldogs have a lot of big moments ahead of them. Nesbitt and the team will approach each of these challenges just as they have all season: together, with victory on their mind.