November 18, 2011

Don't call it the Black Flag

More news about: Trinity (Texas)

By Jason Bowen
D3sports.com

Opponents have not had a lot of success passing, or running, or scoring on Trinity (Texas) this season.
Trinity athletics photo

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Trinity football program made its name as one of the most successful programs on the Division III level. Deep playoff runs and Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships culminated in a trip to the 2002 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.

 A part of that success was a defense that prided itself in the ability to shut down opponents and ranked among the stingiest in D-III. They were known as the “Black Flag.”

But a little more than a half decade later, these are different times for the Tiger program.  Last year, it suffered through its first losing season (4-6) in nearly 20 years. And while they’ve been a consistent contender in the SCAC, Trinity had won just one conference crown since 2006 entering this season. And that one required a “Mississippi Miracle” of sorts.

And despite four trips to the playoffs since 2003, they haven’t won a playoff game since that magical season in 2002.

Making matters worse for the program this past offseason, most of their conference mates decided to flee the SCAC after this year to form a new conference.

So to say that the Tigers were a team searching for a new identify back in August isn’t too much of a stretch.

 “We don’t call it the “Black Flag” defense,” said first-year defensive coordinator Jim Dawson. “That was something that was in the early ‘90s that kind of fizzled out around 2000 or 2002 or up to 2005. We are not that. That was then and this is now.”

But after a 10-0 season and a return to the top of this SCAC this fall, it appears Trinity has found itself again in a defense that ranks third in the nation in scoring (9.8 ppg) and 11th total defense (242 ypg.)

“That was one of our team goals that the team came up with -- win it in the last year of the SCAC,” Dawson said.

If you are looking for a new fancy nickname, you won’t find it according to Dawson. The a veteran of 38 years of coaching, who coach Steve Mohr hired to run his defense last offseason, has coached on all three levels of college football and in Texas high schools.

“Well, we’re trying to find it,” he said. “We told the guys to try to find their MO this fall. We didn’t know what we were going to be called. We don’t have a name yet.”

The Tiger offense has been solid, but unspectacular when compared to teams such as Mary Hardin-Baylor, Linfield, Wesley and this week’s first round opponent McMurry. But it is their defense and special teams that give Trinity the best chance to advance this Saturday. The Tigers rank third in the nation in net punting and 11th in turnover margin.

Five of the Tigers wins this season have been by eight points or less. In four of those games, the defense has been on the field at the end making a stop to secure the victory.

“They believe they’re going to win,” Dawson said. “They believe somebody’s going to make a play.”

It’s been quite a turnaround from last season, when injuries, blown coverage and inexperience knocked the Tigers out of SCAC contention before the end of September.

“It was one of those years.” Dawson said, who volunteered at Trinity in 2009 but spent last season coaching high school ball. “The injury bug hit them really, really hard.

“There were some things that went on in games that are just not typical of what Trinity (defense) traditionally is all about. A lot guys playing in the game weren’t ready. You don’t want to use it as an excuse, but you look back as a coach and think that guy has no business being out there yet.”

According to Dawson, the formula for success has not been all that complicated.

“We pride ourselves on being able to line up correctly, getting our eyes where they need to be and seeing what we need to see,” He said. “We have decent team speed and try to be physical at the point of attack.

“I’ve got some really good young coaches that understand the game. They do a great job getting all our prep work done. I think having a full-time coordinator on campus has allowed us to provide more leadership. Just a new enthusiasm any time you stir the waters and change your staff around a little bit. That newness bring brings a little enthusiasm with it.”

Still, the veteran coach knows that enthusiasm and a good scheme can only get you so far.

“It’s the kids more than anything else they’ve stayed healthy and played hard,” according to Dawson. “They believe.”

Outside linebacker Ben Robinson heads an outstanding linebacking corps. The senior leads the team in tackles (79) and tackles for loss (12.5.). His versatility allows him to “make a lot of plays” according to Dawson. Robinson, who was two sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles can play outside backer and nickel.

Inside backers Nick Darling and Tom Puskarich are the “heart of our unit” said Dawson.

“The way they do (defensive) stats now is with the naked eye (in the press box) they put down whoever they think makes the tackle,” he said. “When we watch (video) when we come back, those two have about 30 more tackles than they’ve been given this season).”

Junior linebacker Phillip Hiner-Leamon leads the team in sacks with six and the defensive line has depth rotating in as many as seven players in their 3-4 scheme.

Senior fourth-year starter Tyler Barrett heads a secondary that has been able to stay healthy, a “real key” according to Dawson. Barrett is fourth on team in tackles (55) and led the SCAC in interceptions with six.

“He is a real smart kid -- kind of the quarterback back there getting us lined up against all the different formations.”

That secondary and the Tiger defense will face its biggest test to date this season on Saturday against McMurry. The War Hawks are the top-ranked passing offense (370 yards per game) in D-III, while scoring nearly 41 points a game.

“Watching them on film, they have guys that we don’t have,” Dawson said.

One of the guys that McMurry may not have is quarterback Jake Mullin, who sat out part of last week’s game with a knee injury. Still, the War Hawks appear to have a capable backup in Stephen Warren.

One thing is for sure though, if the Trinity defense is on the field with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter Saturday, don’t bet against them. If they can slow down the War Hawks, we may just have to get them a new nickname.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
Box Score
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
Box Score Recap
Final
MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
Box Score
Final
at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
Box Score
Final
St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western New England 59, Curry 28
Box Score
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Colby 9, at Williams 7
Box Score Photos
Final
at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
Box Score
Final
at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
Box Score
Final
Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
Box Score
Final
at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
Box Score
Final
at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
Box Score
Final
at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
Box Score
Final
at Springfield 28, WPI 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Denison 45, Wooster 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
Final
at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
Final
at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
Box Score
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
Box Score
Final
at Centre 49, Chicago 27
Box Score
Final
at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
Box Score Recap
Final
Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
Box Score
Final
at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
Box Score
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
Box Score
Final
at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
Box Score
Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
Box Score
Final
Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
Box Score Photos
Final
Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
Box Score
Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
Box Score
Final
Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
Box Score
Final
at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
Box Score Recap
Final
Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
Box Score
Final
at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
Final
Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
Box Score
Final
Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
Final
at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
Box Score
Final
at Ripon 33, Knox 19
Final
Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
Box Score
Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
Box Score
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
Box Score
Final
UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
Box Score
Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Box Score Photos
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
Box Score Recap
Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Live Stats
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
Box Score
Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
Box Score
Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap