When Bill Lynch was named the new head coach before the start of the 2013 season, he wasn't stepping into an ideal situation.
His Tigers were coming off of a tumultuous 2012 season in which they lost eight games for the first time in almost two decades and had to deal with a midseason coaching change.
With all that in mind, not much was expected out of the 2013 edition of DePauw football. Those expectations dropped even lower when the team opened with four straight losses, including a 45-point drubbing from Wittenberg in the home opener.
Now as Lynch prepares for his second season at the helm, however, there is much more reason to be optimistic.
Things turned around for Lynch and the Tigers when Oberlin College visited Blackstock on Old Gold Weekend. Spurred on by a 21-point second quarter, the Tigers rolled over the Yeomen 45-11 and in the process, found their quarterback of the future.
“What changed for us last year? It was most definitely the emergence of Matt,” Lynch said.
First-year quarterback Matt Hunt exploded onto the scene throwing for over 320 yards and three scores in the win. He then followed up that performance by leading the Tigers to wins over Ohio Wesleyan University and Allegheny College in the weeks that followed.
Hunt proved instrumental in helping the Tigers win four of their final six games and finish with an overall record of 4-6. He now has a year of experience under Lynch’s offense and has the same five offensive linemen returning from last year.
“Last year everything was new,” Hunt said. “We had a new coach and there was a lot of uncertainty. This year I feel like everybody’s comfortable with not only the coaching staff, but also each other.”
Two key losses on the offensive side of the ball could cause problems for the sophomore quarterback, however. Starting tailback, Niko Sansone, and standout wide receiver, Barry Flynn, both graduated, leaving holes in the DePauw attack.
“As the year went on, we were just going to throw it to Barry,” Lynch said. “We knew it and they knew it, but he still made great catches.”
Their departures, give the Tigers the chance to incorporate some new spread formations into an offense that has been traditionally been built on inside running. When the Tigers take the field against Sewanee in week one, Hunt could be lining up in three or four receiver sets to take advantage of the Tigers’ speed.
“I feel like this gives me the chance to hit all the great receivers we have now, instead of just going to Barry,” Hunt said.
Optimism is high as the Tigers begin to wrap up training camp and look forward to the regular season. All four teams the Tigers defeated in 2013 are on the schedule, as well as Sewanee, Kenyon College and the College of Wooster. The Tigers lost all three of those games by a total of only eight points.
“We weren’t a good enough football team to win those games,” Lynch pointed out. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing and I think we’re getting over the hump to winning those kinds of games.”
In those three tough losses, twice the Tigers had the ball with a chance to win and then they failed to hold onto a fourth quarter lead. The need to improve in those types of situations has motivated the team through the first part of training camp.
And, who knows, that bell game at the end of the season might be motivating them a little bit as well.