Normally, this space is reserved for my semi-coherent blather about the sporting world at large. I really enjoy sharing it with you, too. I make jokes about how lousy the Bears are; you shoot me dirty looks in the hallways when we pass — everyone’s happy. But since it’s Homecoming Week, I thought I’d bring it on home and talk about the single-most offensive topic on our campus: Duhawk football.
If you thought I was going somewhere else with this, the shame is all yours.
When Steve Helminiak took the reins of the Loras football program late in the 2013 season, he inherited a team with problems. By most accounts, the program’s culture was poisoned by the previous regime, and the product on the field reflected it. The Duhawks’ offense gained only 182.9 yards per game in 2013, placing them dead-last in the statistical category across every level of college football.
Fast-forward to 2015. Now, just three games into his second season as head coach, Helminiak and his staff appear to have erased the stigma that surrounded the program for the early part of this decade. Are you ready for some crazy numbers?
86 – Points scored by the Duhawks in the entirety of the 2013 season.
98 – Points scored by the 2015 Duhawks in their last two games. What?
971 – Passing yards gained by the Duhawks in 2013.
1,407 – Passing yards gained by the Duhawks through three games in 2015. What?
469 – Passing yards per game this season for the Duhawks.
<469 – Passing yards per game this season for EVERY OTHER TEAM IN AMERICA. WHAT!?
That’s right, kids: our very own Duhawks — who had more punts than first downs two years ago — currently boast the most potent passing attack in the entire country. Just take a moment to breathe that in. Now read it aloud to anyone within earshot.
Think about it: we’re at the point in the college football season when all of the big-time D-I teams have already eaten their early-season cupcakes, and none of them has been able move the ball through the air like Loras has.
When starting quarterback Bob Kelly went down in the season opener at Elmhurst, we worried. When backup Nolan Baumhover was injured a week later amidst a record-setting debut start against UW-Stout, we worried even more. Then came the game against Augustana, and Nik Schulte-mania. How silly do we feel now?
For the Loras passing attack to maintain an upward trajectory while starting three different quarterbacks in as many games is incredible, and it’s a testament to the effectiveness of the offensive system at play here. In less than two years Helminiak and offensive coordinator Jake Olsen have literally taken the Loras aerial attack from worst to first. In case you’re wondering, that’s a difference of 647 spots in the ranking order since 2013.
One of my favorite sportswriters is fond of saying football is about “players, not plays.” In the case of the Duhawks’ prolific offense thus far in the Helminiak era, I must disagree. I’ll take absolutely nothing away from Schulte and Baumhover: they both played extremely well over the last two games and should be praised – along with all of their teammates – for their performances and their hard work. However, I’m starting to think that even I could play quarterback in this offense.
What I witnessed a couple of Saturdays ago in the Rock Bowl struck me as a defining moment in the new culture of Duhawk football. In Loras’ come-from-behind victory over Augustana, I saw a team that refused to lay down and die, despite the mountain of adversity it faced. I saw a group of young men totally committed to a common goal and battling for one another to achieve it. I saw a winner.
We here at the Lorian’s sports section don’t cheerlead – that’s not our job – but I feel like this football program is on the cusp of something special, and I think what we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. So since this is an opinion column (mine, at that), I will leave you with two words you will never again see printed in these pages: