Sept. 10, 2010
Working with a bye
By David Boyce
Next Up: Northwest Missouri State (0-1) at Nebraska-Omaha (0-2)
6:20 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18
TV: MIAA Network
Northwest Missouri State football players are well aware that Nebraska-Omaha lost its first game. The defense watched film of it on Monday.
In addition, the Bearcats probably know UNO lost again on Thursday and dropped to 0-2 for the first time since 2002.
But the Mavericks are really not on the minds of the Bearcats this week.
Northwest used this off week to focus on Northwest.
The Bearcats are regrouping from a season-opening 16-7 loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville on Sept. 2. For much of the game the Bearcats looked out of sync and certainly not like a team coming off a national championship season.
"They were a little bit in shock," said coach Mel Tjeerdsma. "Maybe we had a false sense of security because of the success we've had. You get kind of lured into the feeling no matter how bad things are, you are the Bearcats and you are going to win. They found out that it's not always true."
And that's why the focus this week is on doing the little things right, said senior linebacker Willie Horn.
False starts, holding, missed assignments and poor execution on critical third down plays are things the Bearcats need to limit by the time they play their second game on Sept. 18 at UNO.
"We really hope that it woke everybody up," Horn said. "We know we have the talent to do some great things this year and it is there for us. But we have to do the little things like being more disciplined and executing. That's what this week is focused on. It's more about Northwest and not UNO.
"We are getting back to things we do well."
Northwest has been in this position before. It is the fourth straight season the Bearcats have opened with a loss. The three previous seasons have worked out pretty well, ending with trips to Florence, Ala., for the NCAA Division II championship game.
But Tjeerdsma preaches that what happened last year has no bearing on what takes place in the present.
He definitely doesn't want his players to fall into the trap that the Bearcats will always climb out of the first-game hole. The Bearcats must do things the right way this year in order to be successful this year.
"The bottom line is still your preparation and how you prepare and being ready to play when the whistle blows and being able to respond to adversity and negative things and a lot of those things we didn't do well," Tjeerdsma said.
"To me the emphasis now, without a doubt, is on us. We are looking at what we need to do before we play UNO to make sure we don't experience the same kind of feeling again."
The Bearcats clearly understand what is at stake when they take on the Mavericks. UNO is very desperate. If UNO starts 0-3 it can kiss the playoffs bye, bye for the second year in a row.
If the Bearcats drop to 0-2, their long conference winning streak is over and they face an uphill climb to win the MIAA.
One big thing in Northwest's favor is it knows how to react to pressure situations.
"It's definitely going to be a high energy, intense game," Horn said. "We both know what is at stake. It's a conference game. You can't lose any from here on out. It's a really big game for both of us.
"We got to do things better as far as Northwest goes. You can't take anything away from Texas A&M-Kingsville. They played a great game. But there were things we did to ourselves. That's why we got to get back to things we do right.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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