Butkus and basics called keys to winning season for Saints
The University of St. Francis (USF) Saints were not a losing football team despite a losing record last year, head coach Joseph Curry contends.
“We lost four games last year by a total of two touchdowns,” Curry told the Will County Gazette. “The reality is we were a 5-6 football team, but when you look at our scores and how we competed against some of the best teams in the country, we were right there.”
Curry said the preseason camp is about fixing fundamentals, such as not turning the ball over or giving up big plays on defense. He said the Saints can fix those mistakes, they'll be competitive.
One thing that bodes well for USF’s offense is the return of veteran quarterback Don Butkus. The senior has led the Saints offense for three years, and Curry said he has all the skills and experience to do the job.
In 2016, Butkus threw for 2,045 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had big games against Illinois University, St. Xavier and especially Robert Morris, when he set a school record by throwing five touchdowns. He threw four touchdowns and scored one touchdown on the ground St. Xavier.
“He has been in the offense for a number of years, and we’ve been able to do some really good things on offense with him,” Curry said. “He’s taken everything we have given him and expanded on it.”
A number of other key pieces from last year's offense will be back, including sophomore wide receiver Brandon Ruffin, who was named to the all-conference team last season after scoring 12 touchdowns in 11 games.
The Saints defensive line will be bolstered by Donald Manning, a transfer student from Ball State University (BSU). Manning, who attended Plainfield East High School (PEHS), didn’t see any playing time at BSU last season, but while at PEHS the defensive end had 13 sacks in 2014.
“Manning will be coming in on the defensive line,” Curry said. “We lost a few guys from the D-line from last season, so I think he will really stand out and made an impact for us this year.”
The Saints will head to preseason training camp in early August, and the season will get underway on Aug. 26, when USF takes on one of the top teams in the country in Morningside College. For Curry, it is important that the team starts off the strong.
“We start out with No. 6 in the country, Morningside College,” he said. "If that’s not enough, the next week we play the No. 1 team in the country. Every week you are playing a very good schedule. If you let yourself get caught up in games late in the year, you’re going to miss out on some opportunities early in the season."
To see the full USF schedule or buy tickets, visit www.gofightingsaints.com.
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