Though the Muskies pulled off a win in double overtime on Friday, August 31st, coach Jake Mueller feels the team still has a lot of room for improvement. “I felt we did not start the game as sharp and as mentally focused as I would like to have seen—we had some breakdowns on offense, on special teams, and we never got into the flow of the game.
While Mueller attributed most of the difficulties the Muskies faced to skill areas they need to improve in, he genuinely expressed pride in his team and commended them for their perseverance against a difficult opponent. “To our kids’ credit, they kept battling, kept fighting, and good things happened. Cedar Rapids Jefferson was an opponent that I had some concern about because I knew they had some very talented players. One of those payers, number twenty-three, I was really worried about him. He took a kickoff ninety-nine yards for a touchdown.”
Particularly, Mueller commended his team for working cohesively. “At the end of the day, what I told our kids is, if you can have a lot of mistakes and can still win a game, that’s a test of character. I’m proud of our team for staying together. Easily, at any point of time in the second half they probably could have folded, but they didn’t do that. They just kept battling, kept fighting, and stepped up and made big plays when they had to.”
The Muskies did not expect to go into double overtime going into the game, and had not played in overtime earlier in the season, but Muller felt sure his team could handle it. “I don’t want to say I was extremely confident going into overtime, but—I felt like it was a game we should win going into overtime. I was pleased to see when they came time to it we had two positions on offense and we scored on two plays. Both first downs, we got in right away. Defensively, we pushed them down long distances.”
Over the course of the following week, the Muskies worked hard on the areas of improvement Muller identified in their game against Jefferson. “Defensively, tackling has been a big key for us, a thing we’ve been talking about all week long, especially open field tackling; we feel like we did a poor job last week.  On offense, consistent execution has been what we’ve been emphasizing.”
On Thursday, September 6th, the Muskies will travel to Brady Street Stadium to face Davenport West. Though the team presents unique challenges to them, Muller trusts the team will handle them well. “Davenport West is a team we haven’t played since 2013, but they’re a team we’re somewhat familiar with because we both attended the Simpson Team Camp this summer and we actually scrimmaged them there. A challenge they present that we have not seen is they’ve got some guys that are pretty darn big—that will be a little bit different for our guys. We’re never going to be the biggest team, so we’re kind of used to that.”
The weather presents a final factor the Muskies must prepare for tonight. With heavy rains almost every day leading up to the game, field conditions may not prove ideal. This does not concern Mueller terribly. “Everyone says it’s going to stop. I’m not a huge fan of rain at all—but we’ll play in the rain. If it rains, we’ll be okay. On the turf anymore, it’s not that big of a deal.” Mueller’s confidence in his team’s ability to take on Davenport West and to handle the wet weather bode well for their performance. And, no matter how hard the fight or messy the night, Mueller’s belief that, “any win is fun,” will certainly hold true.