Saint Francis spring football concluded in weather more suited for November on Friday at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium.
Rain and snow mixed with bitter cold made it rough for fans sitting in the stands who watched the Blue team edge the Black 24-21 on a late touchdown. But Cougars players, particularly offensively, were moving more than enough to stay warm.
Publicly on display for the first time on Friday was Saint Francis’ new wrinkle to its offensive system – speed. It is the same scheme and same formations, but at a much, much faster pace.
The Cougars averaged around 68-70 plays per game a season ago. According to quarterback Josh Miller, the offense hopes to increase that number to between 75 and 90 a game this fall.
“We think it is going to be difficult to prepare for and play against,” offensive coordinator Pat Donley said. “We think with our depth and talent, we think this will take us to the next level.”
No sooner were plays whistled dead that new play calls were being signaled in to the offense. Projected starting quarterback Miller saw significant action in the first half of Friday’s game and was able to continue to refine the things he has found to be different in the new up-tempo style.
“So much of what I had last year was I could look at things and change things on my own (pre-snap),” Miller said. “Now having to go up-tempo, it is more adjusting as the play is going on instead of doing reads before the ball is snapped.”
While running up-tempo takes some of the time away from the players to catch their breath between plays, conditioning becomes important. And as Donley points out, for some positions it is actually more advantageous.
“The (offensive line) likes it a lot better,” Donley said. “It limits what they have to do in movement, they just have to get lined up pretty quick. We don’t have to get in the huddle, job out and line up, so they like it.”
The wide receivers may have the most to learn in the new style of play. Where before they were responsible for just one side of pass concepts, now they need to know the front and back sides of formations due to not flipping back and forth between plays.
But even that is worth it for a chance for more touches.
“They love it,” said Miller about the wide receivers’ thoughts on the style. “We will run more plays and hopefully we can score more points as well.”
Saint Francis is ranked No. 6 in the NAIA Spring Top 25 after a 9-3 season a year ago. The Cougars will kick off the regular season in the fall with a visit to No. 15 William Penn on Sept. 14.
The home schedule begins a week later against No. 10 St. Ambrose.