Olivet Nazarene football coach seeing improvements each week
Six weeks into his second season at the helm of Olivet Nazarene University’s football team, head coach Eric Hehman told the Kankakee Times he is happy with the team’s 4-2 record.
“This whole endeavor is about the process and long term over short term,” Hehman said. “But in that process, you always want to have some small victories that allow you to see and measure if you’re accomplishing the goals you have for the program, and I feel like we’ve had those. I’m pleased with the season but eager for what is still to come.”
The Tigers opened the season on Aug. 26 with a 31-24 win over No. 20 Kansas Wesleyan. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Lawton led the offense, completing 22 of 30 pass attempts and throwing for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Hehman said Lawton has come a long way since last year and is turning into one of the most consistent ONU players.
ONU next claimed a 39-14 victory over Lindenwood University-Belleville, with three players rushing for at least 50 yards each for a combined 252 yards. Hehman said the offensive line has played a major part in the team’s ability to run the ball.
“Our whole O-line has improved since last season,” Hehman said. "We’ve been able to run the ball on everyone that we’ve played and that’s because of the work the O-line is doing.”
The Tigers improved to 3-0 by beating Siena Heights, 20-11. Lawton once again led ONU’s offensive attack, throwing for 149 yards and two touchdowns and completing 14 of 21 passes.
After three wins, ONU opened conference play against Concordia University and suffered its first loss, falling 38-16. The Tigers defense couldn’t contain Concordia’s offense. Cardinals quarterback Seth Suida threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Joe Connor racked up 127 yards and one touchdown.
ONU dropped its second-straight conference game the following week, losing 40-21 to No. 9 Marian University. The first quarter ended tied at seven, but Marian put up 20 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to take control. The Tigers struggled to control the Knights offense, and Marian quarterback Luke Johnston threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers returned to their winning ways the following week in a tight game against Trinity International University, with a 44-41 win. Lawton threw for 207 yards and one touchdown, and running back Erik Anderson rushed for 134 yards and one touchdown.
Hehman said he has seen improvements in the team’s play every week and looks forward to the second half of the season.
“The goal for any program from day one when you start in August till you play the last game of the season is to get better and better each week,” Hehman said. “That’s the true measure of your success. I think each week we’ve gotten better."
After a bye week to start October, the Tigers will face Robert Morris University-Illinois, the University of St. Francis and No. 11-ranked Saint Xavier University, before closing the regular season on Nov. 11 against Saint Ambrose University.