Kennesaw State learned plenty from inaugural season

A 6-5 record in Kennesaw State’s inaugural season was nice, but how the season ended — four losses in five games — was a primary lesson for coach Brian Bohannon as he began to prepare for the program’s second season, which begins Saturday against East Tennessee State at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.

There were reasons the Owls couldn’t maintain its 5-1 start:

  • The team was filled with freshmen and redshirt freshmen who lacked experience;
  • It was playing established Big South Conference opponents and not non-conference teams hand-picked to increase the chances of victory at the beginning of the season;
  • The team used up a lot of its emotional capital just getting through all of the firsts that a first-year program will experience.

By the third week of October, when the losses started occurring with regularity, some players admit they were almost out of gas.

“When it (fatigue) started to affect us, that’s when mature teams, better teams would fight through it and be able to stay locked in,” quarterback Trey White said.

Bohannon saw it happening and initiated to plan to combat fatigue this season.

The first step was the addition of another signing class that will increase depth. The Owls could feature as many as eight freshmen who will start. The two-deep includes 33 players who are redshirt sophomores or younger.

Second, players already in the program went through another offseason of strength and conditioning.

Third, Bohannon spoke with a few of the coaches he knows best — Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, Army’s Jeff Monken, Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Charlotte’s Brad Lambert — on how he could best improve between season one and season two.

“Lot of things I could have done better last year that I’m going to learn from,” he said.

To try to keep his players fresher for the season, he reduced the number of full-pad practices. Instead, they practiced in shells more often while trying to maintain the same focus as if they were in full gear.

In an attempt to keep his players fresher mentally, he is stressing a singular focus of 1-0, with an emphasis on just winning the next game. Asked his personal goals, White answered “1-0.” Though Bohannon stresses that the program’s goal is to build a championship-level program, doing so can only be done by winning the next game.

“We are a much better football team,” Bohannon said. “That’s easy to say on Wednesday at 1 o’clock, but we will find out on Saturday at 7 o’clock.”

White and all-conference defensive back Derrick Farrow said they haven’t noticed Bohannon mellowing now that the stress of the first year has abated. They said he may actually be more intense.

Bohannon has stressed to his staff that they can’t be complacent and assume that things that worked last year will work this year because “that’s when we will get our butt kicked.”

Bohannon does know that some of the firsts that affected the team mentally are now off the table: the first game, the first road game, the first night game on the road, the first homecoming. Though the opener against the Bucs will be the first home night game in the program’s two-chapter history, the Owls played several games under the lights last season.

“All the excitement and pageantry is gone,” Bohannon said. “Now it’s football. We can’t just settle for what we started. We have to continue to go out for the things that we started to do. Six-and-five isn’t what we aspire to be. We have to continue to build.

“When you set standards from the get-go, it’s easy to do that.”