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Demanding schedule awaits Nicholls State in 2012
Every college football schedules brings new challenges, and Nicholls State’s 2012 schedule is a little more challenging than most.
With three Football Bowl Subdivision teams to start the 2012 season, the Colonels have one of, if not the, toughest schedule of any Football Championship Subdivision team in the country.
Nicholls begins the season on Sept. 1 at Oregon State, then travels to play South Alabama on Sept. 8 before a Sept. 15 road game against Tulsa.
It is the first time in the history of Nicholls football that the Colonels start the season with three FBS teams.
In 2010, the Colonels played San Diego State, Western Michigan and South Alabama, but South Alabama was not a full-fledge FBS program at the time.
Colonels coach Charlie Stubbs said he knew his 2012 schedule would be tough, but with budget cuts to higher education, the schedule was needed to help not only athletics but the entire university.
“When I look at it and put it together, I knew it would be super challenging, but I believe in a few things. Playing that type of schedule helps in our recruiting efforts. It also prepares us for a challenging Southland Conference schedule in itself,” Stubbs said. “It also helps the athletic programs and the university with much-needed funds. I also want the players to have a great experience here at Nicholls. How many times will these guys travel to the Pacific Northwest and play a Pac-12 team and see a different part of the country?”
Obviously, helping the budget is the main advantage of playing against bigger schools, but Stubbs said playing top competition in hostile environments helps his team prepare for conference.
“We do care about the outcome, but the biggest thing is there will be no bigger environment that we will play in (the SLC). We are prepared for crowd noise and really physical, nasty play. Those things we can build on and draw from throughout the season,” Stubbs said. “There is more to it. I want the players to have this opportunity and I want to keep this up every year. At least two or three FBS teams and see where we are at. I also know, when we knock one of those teams off, it really will be a big thing.”
One disadvantage playing bigger schools are injuries.
FBS teams have more scholarships and more depth, meaning they can rotate several units in and out of games.
With fewer scholarships, any injury can be devastating to a FCS team, but senior center Gerald Gruenig, who broke his leg against Texas State last season, said it doesn’t matter the opponent, injuries are part of the game.
“There is a difference in depth. We know Oregon State is going to have a rotation of ones and twos. Last year against (Louisiana-) Lafayette, I played 70 snaps against three different nose guards,” Gruenig said. “This is my fourth year, and we are used to playing against bigger guys, but now we have guys that are bigger and physical and able to compete. It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.”
Another issue FCS schools have to guard against when playing bigger opponents is losing confidence.
When a matchup is unfavorable for a FCS team and negative things snowball, games can get out of hand leaving players with damaged psyches.
The Colonel seniors have that experience when they were part of a 72-0 drubbing by the Air Force Academy in 2009. Nicholls bounced back the next week with a win over Duquense and won its final two games of that season.
Senior defensive lineman Darrel Brown said it will be up to team leaders to let the younger players know that falling to FBS opponents doesn’t mean the season is over.
“That is a huge factor because the young guys might hang their heads after that first loss. Football is a lot like life and things don’t always go your way. You just have to find a way to fight through it,” Brown said. “As long as the seniors and leaders on this team keep everyone motivated, hopefully we will come out and play good. The schedule demands a lot of the team and we have to put out more as a team. With a schedule this tough, it motivates us more because we don’t want to have another season like last year.”
After three recruiting classes, Stubbs said he has the talent and depth to handle any adversity that may occur during that opening three-week stretch of the season.
“It doesn’t matter who you play really. We can say if we play FBS teams we could get hurt, but it doesn’t matter. You can get hurt in practice. The bottom line is that this is a physical game,” Stubbs said. “Every practice that we have whether it is good or not so good, if we walk off the field healthy, then we have a chance to improve. We are going to go 900 miles an hour, and we are anxious for the challenge. We hope not to have injuries, and hopefully (this schedule) will allow our depth and newcomers to grow up quickly.”
By Teddy Renois, Daily Comet