There will be a lot of excitement surrounding the first night game in Saint Francis football history Saturday against Concordia University. But first and foremost in the Cougars' minds will be getting back in the win column after a home defeat to Saint Ambrose two weeks ago.
To help do that, coach Kevin Donley did something that he has not done in quite some time.
“A few days after the loss, Coach D met with each position group and talked to each guy individually,” junior linebacker Devon Rush said. “He had never done that before in the time that I have been here. It was all about accountability and what each of us needed to work on to get better.”
The Cougars hope that attention to detail will pay dividends not just this week, but in the coming weeks as well. After Saturday, Saint Francis will not play another home game until Oct. 27, with visits to top-10 programs Saint Xavier and Marian coming up.
“It is going to be awhile until we play another home game, but I like going on the road,” Rush said. “We treat it just like a business trip.”
But before the Cougars hit the road, they want to dispatch of Concordia, a team Saint Francis easily defeated a year ago, 69-0, and is 0-3 so far this season.
“From what we can see, Concordia is a better team than they were last year,” Rush said. “We need to come out and not let any of the distractions get to us and get a win.”
Rush does not believe all of the hype will distract the Cougars. Perhaps, if Saint Francis were entering this game at 3-0, that thought would be different.
Saint Francis' defeat to Saint Ambrose was an early-season setback not often seen from the Cougars program. Before the defeat, Saint Francis had not lost so early in a season since 1999 when Donley's team lost its season opener to Valparaiso.
But Donley has used the one-point loss to Saint Ambrose to challenge his team and get them to refocus.
“Coach told us that the loss was really a blessing in disguise,” Rush said. “With the schedule that we got coming up, we need to pump up the intensity and we needed that in a way to get refocused.”
Saint Francis will need to be focused for Saturday, but more so for the Murderer's Row of upcoming road games.
“These next couple weeks are going to be tough,” Rush said. “All that offseason work is going to pay off, and the conference is really going to be decided in the next several games.”
Kickoff for Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m.