Last Modified: Tuesday, August 05, 2014 11:12 AM
The most famous person in the Southland Conference is an assistant coach.
Fortunately for Incarnate Word, running backs coach Ricky Williams opens doors to homes that otherwise have no idea the school even exists. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner could probably be his team’s most potent offensive weapon if he still had eligibility.
In its three games against Southland opponents last season, UIW was held to less than 100 yards on the ground.
The Cardinals did fare well against the league’s other newcomers, though, splitting a home-and-home pair of games with Abilene Christian and stifling Houston Baptist in an easy 24-3 win.
For the time being, playing at that level is not the worst thing in the world. Incarnate Word won’t be eligible for a Southland title this year, so head coach Larry Kennan’s goal is to build a program capable of doing so when that time finally comes in 2017.
“I’m not worried about wins and losses because I know our guys will play up to their abilities,” Kennan said. “We are still young, but we have a lot of guys back. We are going to do the best we can and hope our efforts turn into some wins.”
One cannot claim the Cardinals lack ambition.
UIW visits three-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champion North Dakota State on Sept. 13 before opening conference play the next week.
“They are the best program in FCS and I thought it would be great to see how they do it,” Kennan said. “You can’t be the best unless you play the best, and you have to know what that is first.”
This is not Kennan’s first go-round in the Southland for a team named the Cardinals.
He was the head coach at Lamar from 1979-81. Kennan’s misfortune was coming at a time when McNeese was the league’s buzzsaw, with the Cowboys reaching back-to-back Independence Bowls. Kennan went 13-17-3 in Beaumont before being hired by the Los Angeles Raiders as an assistant.
Kennan spent the rest of his career as an NFL assistant coach, with the exception of his stint leading the London Monarchs to the inaugural World League of American Football title in 1991.
When UIW hired him in 2012 it ended a 15-year retirement that began after he served as Pete Carroll’s offensive coordinator with the AFC East chamipon New England Patriots in 1997.
Hickey’s Pick: 1-10, 1-7 in Southland