ADA – The 2013 Ohio Northern University football team was 3-4 after seven games.
But it rebounded to win its last three games by a combined score of 143-38 to finish the season at 6-4 and leave the Polar Bears with high expectations for this season.
Veteran coach Dean Paul returns for his 11th season at the helm of the Polar Bears and sees potential after the way last season ended.
“We played really good football on both sides of the ball,” Paul said of the three-game stretch. “You definitely feel better and that allows you to build momentum and confidence. Morale and optimism are both high entering this season.”
ONU returns nine starters on the offensive side of the ball, led by quarterback Patrick Angle. Running backs junior Will Bodden and sophomore Justin Magazine combined for 1,077 yards and 16 touchdowns last year.
“We feel some of our better players are back and we think we have answers for the players we did lose to graduation,” Paul said. “Our junior and sophomore classes are very strong, thanks to solid recruiting and provide a lot of depth.”
The Polar Bears have had 12 freshmen letter each of the last two seasons, so that experience will hopefully begin to show positive results.
Devin Price (Toledo Start) provides explosiveness at both wide receiver and as a kick returner.
The offensive line has depth and experience and should provide time for Angle to throw, along with holes for Bodden and Magazine to run.
Defensively, the Polar Bears have a line-by-committee approach, with nine returning lettermen and two solid linebackers in senior Dillon Kwait (Tiffin Calvert) in the middle and sophomore Cody Cox at one of the outside backer positions.
Perhaps the big challenge for ONU will be to find starters for the defensive backfield, as all four starters graduated.
ONU returns three kickers who either kicked field goals, punted, or kicked off last season, so that could be a strong point for the Polar Bears.
Paul looks forward to the season, but knows a couple of factors will be keys to success.
“We have to play good from the start due to our tough early schedule. A good start with a sense of urgency will be a key for us.” Paul said. “A consistent program must focus preparation on what they do well.”
The Polar Bears travel to St. Louis to open the season at 2 p.m. Saturday against Washington University, which went 8-3 a year ago before beginning play in the always tough Ohio Athletic Conference.
Other key dates include Oct. 11 when national power Mount Union comes to town and Oct. 25 when the Polar Bears play their first ever home game under the lights at 7 p.m. against Muskingum.
ONU’s first home game is set for Oct. 4 at 1:30 p.m. against John Carroll.