Credit: David Flores / Kens5.com
UIW coach Larry Kennan says the Cardinals should look to Sam Houston State as a model of what it will take to be competitive in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision.
Friday, Sep 14 at 8:59 AM
Considering Sam Houston State was ranked No. 1 in the FCS and Incarnate Word has struggled to win on the Division II level, the Bearkats' 54-7 rout of the Cardinals last week was predictable.
The lopsided loss gave UIW a sobering preview of what it will be up against in 2014 when it moves into the Southland Conference, which includes Sam Houston. The SLC competes in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA.
UIW, a member of the Lone Star Conference since 2010, played its first season in 2009 as a Division II independent. The SLC announced last month that UIW has been accepted for membership in the league, effective July 1, 2013.
The Cards will play an SLC schedule in every sport but football at the start of the 2013-14 school year. UIL will compete as a football independent in 2013 before playing a league schedule in 2014, but won’t be eligible for Division I postseason competition until the 2017-18 school year.
Cards coach Larry Kennan was candid this week when he talked about the challenge that lies ahead for the UIW football program.
"Anyone who wants to know what a good I-AA team looks like should have been in Huntsville last Saturday," Kennan said. "It's a good model to look at and say, 'What do they have in place, as far as staffing and facilities go?' If we can have what they have, maybe we can do what they do."
The 47-point loss to the Bearkats is the most lopsided defeat in UIW's brief history.
UIW plays Eastern New Mexico on Friday afternoon
"We're going to be OK," Kennan said. "If you came into the season and said at the end of two games we're going to be 1-1, we'd probably say OK. We're about where we ought to be."
UIW (1-1) plays Eastern New Mexico (1-1) at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. The game is part of the Lone Star Football Festival, featuring six games in three days on the Cowboys' home field.
Kennan expressed confidence the Cards will bounce back after the beating they took from Sam Houston.
"Our players know they played a very good team," Kennan said. "Sam Houston is going to beat a lot of teams this season."
Coached by Willie Fritz, the Bearkats advanced to the FCS title game last year and finished 14-1.
"I told Willie that I'd like for us to be like them two years after this season," Kennan said.
"Sam Houston is really good. They're one of those teams that you just admire when you watch them. They've got players who can really run, both on offense and defense. That's what we want to be. We want to be fast.
"I think we can get there, but we're going to need the resources. Given the same resources and scholarships they have, it's a new ballgame and a fight to the finish."
UIW finishes with minus-46 yards rushing against Bearkats
Although UIW held a short-lived 7-6 lead, Sam Houston dominated the game after it got going. The Bearkats outgained the Cards by almost 400 yards in total offensive yardage – 484-88 – and UIW finished with minus-46 yards rushing in 20 carries.
Sam Houston rushed for 327 yards on 50 carries, a nifty 6.5 average, and made 6.9 yards per play.
Given the disparity in scholarships, no one should have been surprised by the way the Bearkats manhandled UIW. FBS schools are allowed 63 full scholarships and Division II schools are allowed to give 36.
"We're a team that's won five games the last two years and Sam Houston has won 20 games in two years," Kennan said. "We are going to go through a lot of growing pains, but you can cut down the time you go through those growing pains if you get the resources you need."
One of the things UIW probably will have to do when it joins the SLC, observers have said, is hire an associate athletic director who will be in charge of handling the day-to-day operations of the football program.
"If we get things going and don't spread things out over a six, seven-year period, we have a chance for this to be a really good program," Kennan said. "We have a great city and a beautiful campus to recruit to."