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Blue Hose look to better last year's 2-9 mark
Presbyterian coach Harold Nichols has struggled to move the Blue Hose up in the Big South Conference. He thinks things might be turning around.
Nichols, in his third season as PC’s coach, said his team is gaining experience. He remembered how on the bus from Clinton up to Wake Forest to start last season, 49 of his 63 players were underclassmen. After having no choice but to play them in last year’s 2-9 season, Nichols expects to watch them grow up.
“Going forward, we need to use some lessons that we learned and learn to finish some games,” he said. “We were in a lot of games and very competitive at times during the year, but we’ve got to be better at bringing things home.”
The Blue Hose did show promise a year ago - they were 0-11 in Nichols’ first season - and earned their first Big South victory against Gardner-Webb.
And while the competition won’t be nearly as tough - PC followed a Wake Forest game with a trip to Clemson - Presbyterian will face some of the best the Football Championship has to offer in Southern Conference playoff teams Georgia Southern and Wofford.
The Blue Hose face Furman as well.
“To be able to play those teams, some of the best in the FCS, is important,” Nichols said. “So we’ve got to go and best some of those teams and get some national respect.”
Presbyterian again faces an FBS opponent, as it will travel to San Francisco to take on Cal in game that Nichols said came together because of the Pac-12 Conference’s realignment.
It’s also the furthest west that Blue Hose football has ever traveled for a game, he said. They’ll play at the home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park, because of work to Cal’s home field.
Nichols hopes his squad can stay healthy enough through those non-conference games to make their mark on the Big South. It’s the final season of transition for the Blue Hose athletic program as it moves from NCAA Division II to Division I.
Nichols, a former Blue Hose quarterback, said that fifth-year senior Brandon Miley and sophomore Ryan Singer will continue to battle for the starting spot this fall. Each played in six games last season with Singer holding a slight edge in completion percentage and passing yards.
Offensive lineman Max Travis should anchor the line while defensive back Justin Bethel is expected to lead the defense and the special teams. The senior is the Big South’s all-time leader with six blocked kicks.
How does he do it? Timing and keeping his eye on the ball, as crazy as that sounds.
“When you see a ball get kicked straight at your face, it’s kind of hard to keep your eyes open,” Bethel said. “But keep your eyes open, your hands closed and you’ll get a block.”
By PETE IACOBELLI, The Gainesville Sun