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Relays Edition Sports

How can Drake football look to succeed in the 2023 season?

Photo by Liv Klassen | Photo Editor

The 2022 season was, in short, disappointing for Drake football fans. The team couldn’t seem to find their footing until the final stretch of the season, and even then, the season was too far gone to rebuild. 

The Bulldogs started off the season with a blowout loss to powerhouse North Dakota State University Bison by a score of 14-56. In that game, just about everything that could go wrong, went wrong. 

 NDSU head coach Matt Entz even expressed surprise in the post-game press conference, explaining that they had scored on Drake in just about every possible way. 

Things never did get much better throughout the season, as Drake opened with eight consecutive losses. Things weren’t terrible defensively, but the offense simply couldn’t catch a break. 

In all eight of those losses, the offense managed more than 14 points just once in a 25-30 loss to the Marist College Red Foxes.  

While poor play was the staple of the Bulldogs 2022 season, they’re looking to bounce back in 2023. Head Coach Todd Stepsis will likely be most eager to right the ship. 

In three years as head coach, Stepsis has managed just one winning season. His 2020 season was cut short due to COVID-19 concerns, but his 2021 and 2022 seasons saw a significant downfall in play from 2019, in which Stepsis led the team to that lone 6-5 winning record. 

The team finished this past season with a 3-8 record, following a 2-8 record in 2021. Altogether, Stepsis has gone 13-24 in four seasons as the team’s head coach. 

Then again, it’s hard to place complete blame on Stepsis, as he took over as head coach following his command of a nationally-ranked Drake defense in 2018, and had a winning season right before COVID forced a hard reset on football operations across the country. 

While 2022 was a disappointment overall, there was a silver lining. As stated, Drake finished 3-8 following an 0-8 start. 

Their three game winning streak at the end of the season may have had something to do with Luke Bailey, the once-backup quarterback who was thrust into the starting role following an injury to then-starting quarterback Ian Corwin during the team’s eighth loss. 

Bailey performed well in his first start following that loss, throwing for 236 yards, one touchdown and one interception, leading the team to a 24-17 win over Stetson University. 

The following week, Bailey performed well enough to win once again. His 178 passing yards and single touchdown helped Drake to defeat Butler University, a team that finished 7-4 on the season, by a score of 27-24. 

In the final game of the season, Bailey threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 24-0 shutout over Valparaiso University. 

While there are no guarantees surrounding whether Bailey will win the starting job prior to the start of the 2023 season, the Bulldogs will have to seriously consider a change. While Bailey didn’t play lights-out in his time as the starter, he led Drake to three of their four 14+ point performances on the year and their only three wins. 

Then again, Bailey wasn’t the only solid factor in those games offensively for Drake. The team played well defensively throughout the three matchups. Along with this, Dorian Boyland, a player who exploded onto the scene in 2022, recorded over 100 rushing yards in two of those three final games, leading Drake’s ground game and taking pressure off of Bailey in the pass game. 

While it’s hard to say whether a three-game winning streak can guarantee a turnaround in 2023, Drake football has the pieces in place, and thus the potential, to do just that. 

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