After toppling opponent after opponent in the NAIA for more than a decade, the USF Cougars football program found out first hand, how it feels to be on the other side last season. Coach Jed Stugart and his squad finished 6-5 in their transition year heading to DII.
"We understand that we have to step our game up at this level," Stugart said. "I think we learned a lot and if we mix that with the tradition, we will be fine."
For the first time since 1987, the Cou opened their season at 0-3. However, they found their groove towards the end of 2011, winning 5 of their final 6 games.
"We have a nice flow going with our team, we want to carry that into this season and this week against St. Cloud State," senior quarterback Taylor Perkins said.
After sitting out from postseason play due to NCAA regulations, the purple and black are now ready to enter the fold as a full fledged member of the Northern Sun Conference.
"We want to go out there and make a statement," Perkins said. "We know people are counting us out, but we need to go out and prove them wrong."
On offense, the Cougars return eight starters, including veteran tailback Kristian Porter and wide out Jeremiah Oates. How far they go will likely rest on the left arm of second year starting quarterback Taylor Perkins.
"He has a come a long way and has learned a lot," Stugart said. "The guys respect him in the huddle and he's earned it.
Defensively, several key players return on the line and in the secondary. Their strength however, will be in the middle where they bring back a lot of talent.
"Our returning core is really good, they are the heart of our defense," Stugart said.
Dylan Scott KSFY Sports.