Texas College cut zero corners when laying out a blueprint for turning the football program back into winners.

The Steers start the season against one of the nation’s top NAIA teams, sixth-ranked Saint Francis (Ind.), today at the newly-furbished Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.

TC went winless last year while St. Francis won nine games. With a load of returnees and several players eligible after missing last season, the Steers plan to show a much-improved team, albeit against a title contender fresh off a trip to the national quarterfinals.

“It’ll be a tough match off the bat,” second-year Texas College coach George Cumby said. “We’re going to battle. Whatever we come in with will be better than what we’ve had in the past. It’ll be a good test.”

The game marks the first on the all-new field turf at Earl Campbell Field. Meanwhile the Steers make their return to their former home field after playing last season at Mewbourne Field on the All Saints Episcopal School Campus. TC scheduled three homes games at Earl Campbell Field (including homecoming Oct. 27) and three more at Mewbourne Field.

While the Steers scored 60 points in 11 games last year, St. Francis proved one of the nation’s best on both sides of the ball. Saint Francis’ lone three losses last year came against national champion St. Xavier (Ill.), and a pair of national semifinalists: Marian (Ind.) during the regular season and Georgetown (Ky.) in the third round of the NAIA playoffs.

The Cougars averaged 384 yards (156 rushing, 228 passing) and 37 points last year on offense and allowed 278 yards (114 rushing, 164 passing) and 21 points with a stingy defense.

Key players back for the Cougars include running back Antoin Campbell (5-11, 200, So.), who rushed for 636 yards and 11 TDs as a freshman; wide receiver Aaron Knight (6-1, 203, Jr.), who caught 47 passes for 631 yards and three TDs; and middle linebacker Brody Kalbaugh (60, 210, Sr.), who led the team in tackles last year.

“We had an excellent two weeks of two-a-days,” longtime USF head coach Kevin Donley said on the school’s website. “We have had a great attitude and great effort from everybody. We're going to move the ball, we're going to score points and our defense is going to be a force to be reckoned with."   

The Steers last defeated a nationally-ranked team in 2005 when it finished the year No. 25.

“They’re really disciplined,” Cumby said of Saint Francis. “We’ve got to also have the discipline and not make the mistakes and turnovers. Defense should keep us in the game. We’re just waiting on our offense to come around. I think it’ll be an exciting day.”

———

Saint Francis at Texas College

When: Noon.

Where: Earl Campbell Field, Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium (Field Turf, 11,500).

2011 Records: St. Francis 9-3; Texas College 0-11.

Series Record: First meeting.

What’s At Stake?

For Texas College, a chance to get back on the national radar after going a combined 1-31 the last three seasons. For Saint Francis, the opportunity to remain in the top 10.

Key Matchup

Texas College OL vs. Saint Francis DL. The Steers return their top four ground gainers a year after averaging a scant 77 yards rushing per game. Saint Francis limited teams to 114 yards rushing per game in 2011.

Players To Watch

St. Francis: MLB Brody Kalbaugh (6-0, 210, Sr., Fishers, Ind.). Kalbaugh returns after notching 123 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks while leading a physical Cougars defense.

Texas College: QB Vincent McNeil (6-3, 190, Jr., Dallas). After missing last season ineligible, the electrifying McNeil is set to take the field at the same place he starred for at Tyler Junior College.

Facts & Figures

Saint Francis is located in Fort Wayne, Ind. and has an estimated enrollment of 2,350. The football program, entering its 15th season, sports an all-time record of 140-31, all under head coach Kevin Donley. …Texas College is 10-53 since opening the 2006 season ranked No. 14 in the nation.

Next Up: Wisconsin-Stevens Point at Saint Francis (Sept. 1); Texas College at Incarnate Word (Sept. 1).

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