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Football team makes history

By Alejandro Villegas
On November 12, 2012

It happened at the beginning of the 2011 season and the situation presented itself again one year later.

The OU football team lost their first two games of the season. This year, one of those actually came against a conference opponent, to which the team rallied to win the rest of their games, winning the KCAC championship.

On Saturday the Braves defeated Bethel College 51-6 to complete the comeback and obtain a bid for the NAIA playoffs.

Senior Shane Gimzo said the hard start helped the team play together better.

“We thought things were going to be a little bit easier and things were going to be handed to us,” Gimzo said. “After the two losses we had a couple team meetings and talked about what we needed to do and what was best for the team.”

Gimzo said the loss in conference to Kansas Wesleyan really set the team back, and it took a while to get back on top.

“It took seven weeks to get back to that point,” he said. “It was stressful, but our guys responded and played well.”

Senior Zach Van Deusen believes this rough start was due to the fact that there were a lot of positions being fought for, so people were splitting repetitions in key positions.

Once the team settled down, things started to go their way.

“What happened was that everybody, including our quarterback, got more comfortable with where they were playing,” Van Deusen said. “Defensively, it was one of those situations in which we needed to find out who we were.”

The defense had almost everyone returning this year, but Van Deusen said those players they lost were important leaders.

Van Deusen said since everyone knows their roles both offensively and defensively, the team is looking better.

“Our offense knows (the defense is) going to be there for them,” he said. “There is less competition between offense and defense. We are playing as a team.“
Another aspect that contributed to the slow start was that their “flow” on the field was a little bit off, according to Van Deusen.

“We also needed to find out who was going to talk in key moments. Those little details,” he said.

There was a situation during this season that Van Deusen described as a defining moment the third week against Tabor College, when the Braves probably were going to lose.

“Basically, they just needed to kneel (the ball),” he said. “They ran the play and the play was ran to my side. I scraped the ball and I looked down the endzone. Donald Anderson picked it up and ran it for a touchdown. It was kind of a miracle.”

Since that moment, everything has turned around for the Braves.

“That guy gave us a second chance. And now we are going to carry that with us to the playoffs,” Van Deusen said.

Defensive Coordinator Josh Homolka is satisfied with how his players did.

“We were not in control of our destiny,” Homolka said. “It took seven weeks to get back to that point. It was stressful, but our guys responded and played well.”

Now the Braves are ready to go for the national championship.

“Going to the Spring our main goal was the national championship,” Van Deusen said. “Number one team in the nation is Georgetown, which last year, we should have beat. We really beat ourselves with a couple penalties.”

Gimzo said they have been taking every game of this season like a playoff game. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the chance to get to the playoffs,” he said. “Now teams are going to be a lot better. We are facing the top 16 teams in the nation. We just have to prepare every game like it is our last game.“
Coach Homolka trusts his offense.

“Our offense can obviously score points,” he said. “They have done a lot of that in the playoffs in the past 4 years,“ he said.

In order to fight for a national championship Homolka believes that they have to play a lot better on defense.

“We are going to have to hold the other teams between 10 and 17 points to win in the playoffs,“ “Homolka said. “We have to bring up the level of focus now that we are back in control of our destiny, and we will see what this team can do.”

The Braves play Missouri Valley Saturday at 2 p.m.

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