Story by Austin Cannon
For these Drake football players, the lack of an opponent in the spring and summer months only heightens the eagerness for the first game of a new season.
“Oh goodness. Well, you spend a whole camp and spring hittin’ each other, so it’ll be nice to hit someone with a different color jersey on,” said senior linebacker John Hugunin.
“Oh, so eager,” added senior offensive lineman Troy Whitmer. “We really get kind of sick going up against each other.”
Add all that to the fact that the Bulldogs play Grand View, who upset them in Week 1 last season, the anticipation grows even more.
“We’ve had Aug. 30 on our mind for a long time now,” said quarterback Andy Rice. “With them beating us last year and winning the national championship, it’s definitely a game we’ve been looking forward to.”
That’s right. Grand View’s 21-16 first-ever win over Drake was just the beginning of its historic 2013 season. The Vikings went 14-0 and won the NAIA National
Championship. They enter 2014 as the NAIA’s preseason No. 1.
Last year’s defeat was an upset, but it wasn’t a surprise, at least to first-year coach Rick Fox.
“We didn’t lose to them last year because we took them lightly,” Fox said. “In the summer of last year, we were watching some film — as coaches — of Grand View and we said that, ‘Hey, this team could win the NAIA national championship.’ And they ended up doing that.”
To win, Drake can’t be cautious.
“We can’t twinkle-toe around and see how we feel,” Whitmer said. “We need to be really aggressive.”
It’s only one game, but getting the first win of the season is important for any team.
As Fox noted, last year’s victory gave Grand View confidence and propelled them to a national championship, while the defeat contributed to Drake’s early season struggles.
“The first game and getting that first win is always important, but whatever the case, we’re going to keep playing hard every week no matter what,” Fox said.
Drake hosts Grand View tomorrow night (Aug. 30) at 6 p.m. at Drake Stadium. Students get in free with a valid student ID.
At a glance: Grand View
Location: Des Moines, Iowa.
Conference: Mid-States Football Association Midwest League
Coach: Mike Woodley, 2013 AFCA-NAIA Coach of the Year
2013 Record: 14-0, NAIA national champions
Record vs. Drake: 1-3, won 2013 meeting, 21-16
Ranked No. 1 in the NAIA preseason poll
Player to watch: Quarterback Derek Fulton. As a sophomore last year, Fulton accounted for 4,158 total yards, ranking in the Top 10 nationally.
Stat to know: In 2013, the Vikings averaged 205.5 rushing yards per game. In contrast, Drake averaged a paltry 98.5 rushing yards per game.
Drake vs. defending national champions
Per Drake athletics, the Bulldogs are 1-8 against defending FBS, FCS, D-II, D-III and NAIA national champions in their history.
Drake’s lone win came against then I-AA Southern Illinois on Nov. 3, 1984. The losses include three to Michigan, two to Notre Dame, one to Illinois, Idaho State (IAA) and, most recently, Dayton (D-III) in 1990.
Drake high fashion
For all the football fashionistas here in Des Moines, Drake will sport a semi-new look on the field this fall.
The jerseys themselves have stayed the same — Drake blue for home games and white for away games. However, the white helmets with the blue “D” of years past has been retired in favor of the new matte blue headgear with a white “D” on each side.
Gone too are the old white pants. They’ll be dark gray this year.