Starting a brand new football program, especially one that was essentially sporting a lineup of redshirt freshmen, you would expect some inconsistency and some blowouts against more established teams. And while UIW was beaten up on by playoff teams (Arkansas Tech and Midwestern State) in weeks 2 and 3 by a combined 17-89 margin, the young Cardinals showed resiliency, winning 4 of their final 6 games to finish the season with a 5-5 record. A close look at the schedule takes a little bit of luster off of the overall record - of the five wins, one was against Monterrey Tech, not an NCAA or NAIA school, two of the wins were over NAIA schools (SW Assemblies of God, and Texas Lutheran), and two were over D2 schools (winless ECU and Panhandle State, which had 1 D2 victory). Nonetheless, wins are wins and for a team comprised overwhelmingly of freshmen, it was still a very good season. Offensively, the team averaged 332 yards and 29 points per game, while the defense gave up 411 yards and 31 points per contest.
Out with the old
WR Todd Walker was the lone senior in 2009. Walker, a Texas Tech transfer caught 24 passes for 370 yards and 6 TDs.
The Cardinals are young, but not inexperienced. Ten starters return on offense, with just Walker missing at WR. Jake Robey, Michael Palacios, Patrick Martinez, Charles Segura, and Jayson Hierholzer return up front after giving up just 12 sacks and helping the running game average 138 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry last year. Segura, a junior, is the elder statesman, while the others will be sophomores this fall. Quarterbacks Eric Massoni (So.) and Thomas Specia (Sr.) split time at QB last year, with similar results. Specia threw for 941 yards, completing just 46% of his passes, with 10 TDs and 9 Ints, while Massoni hit on 53% of his passes for 915 yards, with 11 TDs and just 4 Ints. Both were able to run the ball as well - Massoni gained 265 yards with 3 TDs, and Specia had 207 yards and 2 TDs rushing. Donald Gies and Trent Rios return in the backfield. Gies, a blocking back, helped Rios rush for 357 yards and 2 TDs. Rios added 184 more on 17 receptions. Against Midwestern State, he managed a very respectable 78 yards on 20 carries. Dominic Hamilton was the leading receiver last year with 29 receptions for 464 yards and 6 TDs, despite missing the first three games of the season. He exploded against East Central and Texas Lutheran, with 13 receptions for 311 yards and 4 TDs in back-to-back games. Caleb Kocian also returns at TE - he had 8 catches for 74 yards and 1 TD.
Nine starters are back on defense. Up front, Zach Zellars, Diego McClain and Alan Ford combined for 125 tackles, 32 for losses and 9 sacks. Behind them at linebacker are Tyler Fields and Dakota Mawyer (99 tackles, 15 for losses and 3.5 sacks). The secondary welcomes back Devan Avery, leading tackler Chaz Pavliska, Aaron Hernandez and Todd Lyons. This young group combined for 179 tackles, 9 interceptions and 13 passes broken up. McClain and Hernandez are the only juniors in this bunch, the rest are sophomores.
Thomas Rebold, yet another sophomore, is back for kicking and punting duties. Rebold was 25-27 on PATs and 8-11 on field goals last year, with a long FG of 43 yards. He also averaged 35.6 yards punting. Jacob Love is also back, after averaging 9.5 yds on punt returns and 22.4 yards on kick returns.
In with the new
Devin Haywood was named to the San Antonio Express All Area first team at QB, throwing for over 1,200 yards and 9 TDs, and rushing for 1,100 yards and 12 TDs. He is slated to play in the secondary for UIW. Josh Eatman, son of former NFL great Irv Eatman, joins the Cardinals combining for 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in his senior season at Park Hill High School in Kansas City. While all five offensive linemen return, don't be surprised if Manny Tijerina (Jr.-Trinity Valley CC) forces his way into the starting lineup. Another offensive lineman, former Kansas Jayhawk Jason Hind, also joins the team. TE Devin Judkins, LB Matt Bass and DB Glenn Hill could also get playing time as true freshmen.
All Conference Candidates
WR - Dominic Hamilton
OG - Charles Segura
LB - Dakota Mawyer
S - Chaz Pavliska
9/11 - at Southeastern Oklahoma - first official LSC contest
9/25 - Texas A&M-Kingsville because of the proximity (and expected large crowd), this could be the start of a football rivalry
10/16 - Abilene Christian these two schools have a long history of competition in all sports
Best Case Scenario
4-7 - In 2009, Incarnate Word showed that while they might not be ready for primetime just yet, they will put up a fight, knocking off East Central and nearly upsetting both Southern Arkansas and Eastern New Mexico. With a much more difficult schedule, a 4-7 record would be an improvement over last year's 5-5 mark.
Worst Case Scenario
1-10 - If the growing pains continue, and a brutal schedule overwhelms the still young Cardinals. Not only do the Cardinals have to face the LSC South gauntlet, but also the preseason top three from the LSC North. While the starting talent looks pretty solid, teams need depth to survive and a lot of depth to prosper.