While the stereotypical answer given by a coach regarding a specific game might be, every game matters, some regular season games have more weight than any others on the schedule. There are some opponents that teams circle on their calendars from the moment they are released. This is the experience that the Mules have been wanting for a long time and will finally have the chance to experience: what it means to play football in Texas. The team will open next season with what could be the biggest regular season game in school history at Mary Hardin-Baylor on Sept. 3. Mary Hardin-Baylor is an up and coming Texas powerhouse who have won two NCAA championships; their first ever in 2018 and then coming in as the defending champs, beating North Central (Ill) 57-24 in the title game last year.
“We haven’t changed our approach, especially in the offseason. Darin Thomas and the strength staff are focused on preparing our team to be in great shape and have a great plan in place for summer strength and conditioning,” said Head Coach Nate Milne. “Our focus is always internal until we arrive at game week. It’s very exciting, but our success has come from being consistent week in and week out, regardless of who the opponent is.”
Defensive coordinator Kory David is not looking to change things either. “Well, it is pretty simple for me, in our spring season I stress the fundamentals and try to hammer home to work on our techniques,” David said. “So that [way], when we come in August, we can load up in the scheme aspect as we have more meeting and walkthrough time.” The semester is coming to a close and with that, the spring season. “We have one more week of spring sessions and then a couple practices before we head to Spain. Following that it is up to the team to be in great shape in August for preseason,” said Milne.
This is a great opportunity for the Mules, and wide-receiver Thomas Jenkins ‘23 is thrilled to get the chance to play this team. “We are extremely excited. When Coach Milne announced the game to us the room erupted. This is a great opportunity for us to go down to Texas and play against the team that won it all last year, not everyone gets to do that,” Jenkins said.
Even though the team realizes that this is no ordinary regular season game, they have remained focused and are sticking to the formulas that have taken them to two Elite Eights in 2018 and 2021 and a Final Four in 2019. While the summers get hectic, the ultimate goal is never lost with this team. “Summers are crazy as the guys will be doing internships or working summer jobs but there is a trust and understanding amongst the team,” said David. “The players will take care of the physical aspect because they understand what hardwork is and what is expected of them to come in and compete in August. We know Mary Hardin-Baylor will be a heck of a game but we will continue the process that has gotten us to where we are now.”
“We have always had the same mindset, we are going to take it one game at a time and focus on doing what we have to do every day, one day at a time, to win a championship,” said Jenkins. “Yes, there’s some more excitement because of the type of game we are opening with, but right now all we can do is focus on preparing for that first moment.”
Playing the defending national champions is no joke, and the team knows they will have to be at their best in their opening game of the season. But this is nothing new to this team. They have shown time and time again that when they are at their best on both sides of the ball, they can beat anyone.