College Football

Harris, Hawks try to do what comes naturally

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 8, 2018 12:01 am

QUINCY -- When the first play of your college football career goes awry, everyone waits to see how you react.

Tionne Harris' teammates told him to do what comes naturally.

"We were like, 船ude, you've played football before. Just go out there and play,'" Quincy University sophomore left guard Max Snell said.

That's what Harris tried to do. The first freshman quarterback to start a season opener at QU since 2008, Harris fumbled on the first snap of last Thursday's game at Indiana State. He threw an incompletion on the next play and the Hawks went three-and-out on the first series.

"The guys knew I had the jitters," Harris said. "They knew I'd probably come out nervous."

Even so, he got his feet wet and didn't drown. The St. Louis Vianney product completed 4 of 10 passes for 29 yards, while running 13 times for 26 yards. A pair of sacks negated some of the yardage that showcased the quickness, agility and ability to create space that won him the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

"A lot of quarterbacks, with the way we started, I could have seen crawl into a shell, panic and just pretty much lose complete composure," QU coach Gary Bass said. "Tionne didn't. That's one of the things we liked about him in fall camp. He was cool, calm and collected.

"For me, seeing that even with the mistakes he's making, he's not panicking and telling the guys on the sidelines, 選've got it. We're going to get it. We're fine.' That was good to see."

So the challenge becomes limiting the mistakes and getting him more comfortable.

That's the challenge for the entire team.

Half of the Hawks' 60-man travel squad last week was made up of freshmen and sophomores. There are 27 players on the two-deep depth chart who played their first college football game last week.

So having one game under their belts heading into Saturday's home opener against Kentucky Wesleyan should help.

"We don't see it as young guys and old guys," Snell said. "We see it as guys who haven't learned yet. I'm right there. I'm still learning. I played in a couple games last year and that helps."

The Hawks understand you don't have to be experienced to execute well, something they know has to improve.

Quincy converted just 3 of 14 third downs and went 0 of 3 on fourth down. The Hawks fumbled four times and lost one, and they averaged just 2.2 yards per carry.

"We learned we have to attack more as a team," Snell said. "We have to go out execute our game plan. We can't let a couple mistakes change how we execute."

Being better prepared to handle any miscues should help.

"I learned that you really have to take this stuff seriously," Harris said. "You have to watch your film, continuously practice and go over the stuff you think they're going to do. You have to watch a lot of film and really go over the opponent."

He believes he knows what to expect from the Panthers.

"I am more comfortable," Harris said. "I know what to prepare myself for."

So do the offensive linemen, four of whom made their first start at their respective positions last week. They allowed two sacks and will be facing a defensive front that had no sacks and allowed 384 yards rushing in last week's 69-19 loss to Findlay.

"That's our job," Snell said. "Our job is to keep him as clean as possible."

The better they are, they better Harris will be.

"The learning curve is steeper there than anywhere else on the football field," Bass said. "For that guy to do well as the season goes on and continue to grow, those guys are going to have to play well in front of him."

And Harris has to do what comes naturally.

"It's easy to remember it's football," he said. "It's something I've been doing my whole life."