IUP FOOTBALL: Crimson Hawks hit the road to open season
Forgive Curt Cignetti if he’s a little unaware of the buzz surrounding his football team. He’s been a little busy the last month or so.
So he’s not sure what to make of all the expectations that have been thrust upon the Crimson Hawks, who appear, on paper at least, poised for a pretty solid season.
“I hear that there’s a lot of excitement out in the community,” Cignetti said. “Of course, all of us coaches kind of go underground once the season starts so I haven’t really talked to too many people lately.”
If Cignetti was a bit more cognizant of what people thought of his team, he’d know that his team was picked No. 10 in two preseason national polls and that Bob Eblen, a columnist for d2football.com, selected IUP as his choice to win the NCAA Division II national championship.
Instead, Cignetti and his staff have been feverishly preparing the Crimson Hawks for the 2013 season, which kicks off Saturday when IUP visits Southern Connecticut State in a non-conference game.
IUP opened last season with a game against the Owls, and claimed a relatively easy 33-6 win at Miller Stadium.
Cignetti said he’s not expecting anything to come easy this time around.
“In an opener, you’re never quite sure what to expect,” he said. “There’s not a lot of media coverage on them, so if they’re doing something different, we haven’t heard about it. So we’ll prepare for what we’ve seen on film and go from there.”
Cignetti then added what seems to be the program’s adopted mantra:
“At the end of the day, it’s not about them,” Cignetti said. “It’s about us. It’s about what we do that we worry about.”
As far as Cignetti’s worries go, IUP had a relatively short preseason camp, with the first practice being held just 20 days ago, and some minor injuries have had a major impact on the Crimson Hawks’ practice plans this week.
Although he did not disclose if any of the injured players would not be available against Southern Connecticut State, Cignetti said the past week has been trying because the projected starters haven’t spent much time on the field together.
His major concerns, though, have more to do with his team’s mindset than anything else. He doesn’t want his team buying into any preseason hype, whether it’s good or bad. In that sense, he’s probably not much different than a lot of coaches.
“Most teams across the country probably feel that way this time of year,” he said.
But Cignetti is optimistic as IUP prepares to tackle the high expectations.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go,” Cignetti said. We’ll get a pretty good gauge Saturday with where we’re at. ... To start the year on the road, there will be new guys on the travel team, and for some of them it will be their first experience like this. But it’s something you have to handle. If you want to be a good football team, you’ve got to be able to go on the road, stay focused and handle the task at hand.
“I think the most important thing for us is to just stay focused on what we can do to be the best we can be.”