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.

comments powered by Disqus
Oct. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Millsaps at Berry
Live Stats Video Audio
Nov. 1: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Kean at TCNJ
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Western Connecticut
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Gallaudet at Norwich
Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Framingham State at Massachusetts Maritime
Preview Live Stats Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at Salve Regina
Preview Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
College of Faith at Wesley
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Union at Hobart
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
Allegheny at Kenyon
Audio
12:00 PM
Alfred at Salisbury
Live Stats Video Audio
12:00 PM
William Paterson at Morrisville State
Live Stats Audio Audio
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
St. Lawrence at WPI
Live Stats Video
12:00 PM
Alfred State at Apprentice School
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Castleton State
Live Stats Video Tickets
12:30 PM
Bates at Bowdoin
Preview Preview Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Colby at Tufts
Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Middlebury at Hamilton
Live Stats Video
12:30 PM
Amherst at Trinity (Conn.)
Live Stats
12:30 PM
Anna Maria at Husson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Lebanon Valley at FDU-Florham
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Becker at Mount Ida
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Marietta
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Montclair State at Cortland State
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Moravian at Gettysburg
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Catholic at Guilford
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Ohio Wesleyan
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Olivet at Albion
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Stevenson at Widener
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
DePauw at Wooster
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Washington and Lee
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater (Va.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Trine at Kalamazoo
Live Stats Video Audio Audio Tickets
1:00 PM
Lakeland at Alma
Live Stats
1:00 PM
Thiel at Carnegie Mellon
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Hope at Adrian
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Western New England at Curry
Live Stats Live Stats
1:00 PM
Muhlenberg at Dickinson
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Susquehanna
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Averett at Methodist
Video
1:00 PM
Ithaca at Brockport State
Live Stats Video Tickets
1:00 PM
Southern Virginia at Rowan
Live Stats Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Lycoming at Misericordia
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Ursinus
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Westminster (Pa.) at St. Vincent
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at King's
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
Albright at Wilkes
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
McDaniel at Juniata
Preview Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Washington U.
Preview Preview Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wisconsin Lutheran at Rockford
Live Stats Audio
1:00 PM
MacMurray at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Bluffton
Live Stats
1:30 PM
Wesleyan at Williams
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Plymouth State at Worcester State
Live Stats
1:30 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Maryville (Tenn.)
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Geneva at Washington and Jefferson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:30 PM
Thomas More at Waynesburg
Audio
1:30 PM
Heidelberg at Wilmington
Live Stats
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Muskingum
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Otterbein
Preview Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Bethany at Grove City
Live Stats Audio
1:30 PM
Anderson at Defiance
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Earlham at Hanover
Live Stats Video
1:30 PM
Westfield State at Fitchburg State
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Frostburg State at Hartwick
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Capital
Preview Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Manchester at Rose-Hulman
Preview Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Concordia (Wis.)
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Southwestern at Austin
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Aurora
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Centre at Hendrix
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. John's at Augsburg
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at UW-Eau Claire
Live Stats Video Audio Audio Tickets
2:00 PM
Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Hamline
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at Cornell
Video
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at Rhodes
2:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Texas Lutheran
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Simpson at Central
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Buena Vista
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Ripon at Beloit
2:00 PM
Carroll at Macalester
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Howard Payne at Louisiana College
Audio
2:00 PM
Carthage at Millikin
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
North Park at Augustana
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Coe at Luther
Video Audio
2:00 PM
Crown at Martin Luther
2:00 PM
Greenville at Westminster (Mo.)
Video
2:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Eureka
2:00 PM
Illinois College at Knox
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
Monmouth at Grinnell
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at UW-River Falls
Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Stevens Point
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Loras
2:00 PM
Sul Ross State at East Texas Baptist
Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. Thomas
Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
3:00 PM
St. Scholastica at Minnesota-Morris
3:30 PM
George Fox at Whitworth
Live Stats Video Audio
4:00 PM
Ferrum at Greensboro
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Pacific Lutheran at Puget Sound
Audio
4:00 PM
Cal Lutheran at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
Live Stats Video
4:00 PM
Willamette at Linfield
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
4:05 PM
Redlands at Whittier
Live Stats Video Audio
5:00 PM
MIT at Endicott
Preview Live Stats
5:00 PM
Pacific at Lewis and Clark
Live Stats Video Audio
6:00 PM
Denison at Oberlin
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
St. Norbert at Lawrence
Live Stats Video
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Christopher Newport
Live Stats Video
10:00 PM
La Verne at Chapman
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
10:00 PM
Pomona-Pitzer at Occidental
Live Stats Video Audio
Nov. 1: All times Eastern
10:00 PM
La Verne at Chapman
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Mount Union at Otterbein
Preview Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Thomas More at Waynesburg
Audio
1:30 PM
John Carroll at Muskingum
Live Stats Audio Audio
1:30 PM
Geneva at Washington and Jefferson
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Bridgewater (Va.)
Preview Live Stats Video Audio Audio
1:00 PM
Wabash at Hiram
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Ursinus
Live Stats Video
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Ohio Wesleyan
Live Stats Video Audio
1:00 PM
Delaware Valley at King's
Live Stats Audio
2:10 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at St. Thomas
Live Stats Video Video Audio Audio
12:00 PM
College of Faith at Wesley
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Buffalo State at St. John Fisher
Live Stats Audio
12:00 PM
Union at Hobart
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wartburg at Buena Vista
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Bethel at Gustavus Adolphus
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at UW-Stevens Point
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
2:00 PM
Illinois Wesleyan at North Central (Ill.)
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Live Stats Video Audio
2:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Elmhurst
Live Stats Video
2:00 PM
St. John's at Augsburg
Live Stats Video Audio Audio
4:00 PM
Willamette at Linfield
Live Stats Video Audio Audio

What We're Reading