Saturday’s game could reveal Vikings’ potential for season
Almost every member of a football team—the coaches, the quarterback, the punter—will tell you they take their season “one game at a time.”
That being said, Augustana has a lot of momentum going into their homecoming game this weekend against the Mary Marauders.
The Vikings have rushed out of the gates with a 2-1 record, including sizeable road victories over Minnesota-Crookston and Northern State and a hard-fought home loss to Minnesota-Duluth, ranked No. 3 in the nation.
In the meantime, the offense has been running on all cylinders, averaging over 466 yards and 40 points per game.
The Vikings’ aerial attack has been especially potent. Sophomore quarterback Trey Heid racked up 851 yards and 11 touchdown passes over the first three games, and he has yet to throw an interception.
This is Heid’s second year as a starter. After a respectable redshirt freshman season, he feels “a lot more comfortable” now that the coaches have expanded his offensive role. Last week against Northern State, he had a landmark game throwing for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
“I’ve got a lot more stuff that I’m in charge of this year,” Heid said. “I can change plays, and I’ve got a lot more confidence from the guys, which helps.”
Not to be outdone, the defense, which features four returning all-conference players (senior defensive lineman Jake Lee, senior linebacker Ben Skelly and junior linebacker Brandon Mohr), dominated Minnesota-Crookston in the first game of the season, and held subsequent opponents, Minnesota and Northern State, to relatively low scores.
According to Heid, the defense has been the team’s backbone this season, giving the offense better opportunities to score and to try out a greater variety of plays.
Mary also enters this weekend with a 2-1 record, having suffered a close loss to a nationally ranked team (in this case, No. 20 Winona State).
“Mary is a good football team that is well-coached and well-disciplined,” head coach Jerry Olszewski said. “They will make us earn everything we can get in this game at every phase. Even in their loss to Winona they were within a possession of a victory.”
The Marauders boast one of the best run defenses in the country, which may pose a significant challenge for Vikings’ more spotty ground attack.
While Augustana’s backfield duo, senior Dajon Newell and sophomore C.J. Ham, has fared well this year, the two running backs failed to gain traction when facing off against Minnesota-Duluth’s superlative defense.
Of course, the foot soldiers in this battle are the offensive linemen, who bear a large share of the responsibility for keeping the Augustana offense humming.
“As an o-line, they always say we’re overworked and underappreciated,” senior lineman Trevor Houser said. “Really, what it is is we keep Trey off the ground, keep his jersey clean and get Dajon and C.J. some rushing yards. We [try] to control the line of scrimmage.”
This will be Augustana’s third matchup with Mary since joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2008. The Marauders claimed victory most recently in 2012.
If the Vikings win this time around, they will be off to their best start since 2010. After limping to a 4-7 finish last season, Olszewski’s first year as head coach, the team appears primed for a turnaround.
But if one asks the players, it’s business as usual. Even if it is homecoming.
“I have the same process week-to-week,” Ben Skelly said. “That just keeps me comfortable, because, when it comes down to it, it is the same game, even if there is more hype.”