The Quincy University football team has won its home opener three straight years -- all since QU Stadium was refurbished and reopened in 2015.
The Hawks welcome Kentucky Wesleyan to QU Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday with the chance to kickstart a four-game homestand the right way. QU doesn't travel again until October and will play seven of its 10 remaining games at home.
So what do the Hawks need to do to continue the successful trend? Here's four points of emphasis:
Protect the ball
The weather will be a factor. After steady all day Friday, the same is expected Saturday. Forecasts are calling for a 60-percent chance of rain at kickoff and rain throughout the day. It shouldn't affect footing too much considering QU Stadium features an artificial surface, but holding onto the football could be an issue. The Hawks worked out for about 40 minutes Friday afternoon in the stadium during a steady downpour. Freshman quarterback Tionne Harris said the walk-through gave him an idea of what to expect when it comes to holding onto the football and believes ball security won't be an issue.
Harass the quarterback
Kentucky Wesleyan allowed eight sacks in last week's season-opening 69-19 loss to Findlay and finished the game with minus-9 yards rushing on 34 carries. The Panthers' leading rusher -- Corey Johnson Jr. -- averaged just 2.5 yards on eight carries. Three players finished with negative yardage. On the flip side, the Hawks allowed 339 yards rushing and 5.5 yards per carry in a 49-0 loss to Indiana State. Senior linebacker Cody Leonard had the Hawks' lone sack, and junior linebacker Sam Mock had the only other quarterback hurry. The Hawks will need a better effort from its front four, who combined for just two tackles for loss last week.
"We're not going to see the 3 yards and a cloud of dust type of stuff Indiana State tried to enforce with their run game," QU coach Gary Bass said. "They are going to be more spread driven. They want to get people in space and allow their playmakers on the outside to make plays."
Give Kewney some rest
Junior punt Nathan Kewney proved he's up to the task of flipping the field when the Hawks need it. Kewney averaged 43.8 yards per punt last week with a long of 53 yards and two that were downed inside the 20-yard line. The problem was he punted eight times. The Hawks can't win with Kewney having a heavy workload, so sustaining drives and moving the ball efficiently is a must. Quincy didn't have a drive last week longer than seven plays and none longer than 38 yards. Of the 14 drives, three ended with negative yardage. If the Hawks can control the clock -- the longest drive last week was 4:13 and only six drives lasted two minutes or more -- they will keep Kentucky Wesleyan's skill players off the field and give Kewney some rest.
Establish a running game
Bass said he and the coaching staff saw glimpses where the offense did everything correctly and confidently and began to establish a running game. The Hawks have to do better. They managed just 81 yards on the ground despite running almost twice as many run plays as compared to pass plays. Junior running back Chris Brinson, who has taken over as the feature back, had 32 yards on 13 carries, while Harris had 26 yards on 13 carries. The positive sign for QU is it had only two plays not featuring a quarterback go for negative yards, and one of those was a fumbled snap by Kewney that resulted in a 14-yard loss. If the offensive line can open holes and the backs can keep their footing, better production should be on the horizon.