Southwestern State's rebuild under coach Dan Cocannouer continues to progress.
The Bulldogs were 1-10 in 2009, which was Cocannouer's first season. They improved to 3-8 in 2010, and then 5-6 last season. Going into Saturday's game against Southern Arkansas in Magnolia, Southwestern State is 1-1. The win, 13-10 last weekend against East Central, was the Great American Conference opener for both teams.
Revitalizing the NCAA Division II program has stress-tested the brain cells.
“Oh, I guarantee you that,” Cocannouer said, laughing. “I have no patience at all. I think I was on the suicide hotline those first two years here. They had to come and check on me. It was rough.”
Loss after loss early on was not easy for anyone, especially Cocannouer, who left a successful Class 6A program at Edmond Santa Fe High School. Cocannouer was an All-State running back at Tuttle who played for Southwestern State in the late 1970s, when the Bulldogs won two championships in the old Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference.
“It's all about recruiting,” Cocannouer said. “We've got some good kids, good character kids who want to play and do what it takes to win. I'm proud of them.”
*Southern Nazarene will play the first of just two home games this season at 6:35 p.m. Saturday against Harding (Ark.). The last time SNU played a home game was November, when it beat Langston to clinch the Central States Football League title and its first NAIA playoff berth. Now, the Crimson Storm is in the infant stage of becoming a Division II member — and it's paying some ugly dues. Southern Nazarene is 0-3, which includes a 63-21 loss at Henderson State (Ark.) and 37-15 setback at East Central. Both are from the Great American Conference, the league SNU will soon become an official member.
*Central Oklahoma will honor its 1962 and 1982 NAIA champion football teams during halftime of Saturday's game vs. No. 9-ranked Washburn (Kan.) at Wantland Stadium. Players from each team will attend. Defensive end Ed Nowlin was a first-team All-American for the '62 squad, which finished 11-0 and beat Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) 28-13 for the title. Wide receiver Daric Zeno was a first-team All-American for the 1982 team. Those Bronchos finished 10-2 after they trimmed Mesa State (Colo.), 14-11.
Mesa was coached by Bob Cortese, who went on to coach the Oklahoma Wranglers of the Arena Football League and then spent several years as a football radio/television analyst in the city.
Saturday's kickoff is 2:35 p.m.
*Kim Jech is keeping a diary of this football season. Jech's son, Kyle, is a senior quarterback for Northwestern State. The former Kingfisher High star is one of few returning starters for the Rangers, who take an 0-3 record into Saturday's game against unbeaten Texas-San Antonio in the Alamodome. Kim Jech and other family members attend home games in Alva; they also drive to every road date in a 2009 GMC Acadia that was purchased for football travels.
“I'll have to figure out how many miles we have driven — I'm not sure, but it's been a bunch,” Kim Jech said. “I hope this doesn't jinx me, but so far, no breakdowns.”
*Southwestern State has tight end Ryan Corbin back in its lineup. The junior missed all but two plays of the 2011 season with a knee injury. Corbin had a lot of time to think about football while rehabilitating the knee.
“One thing that happened to me after the injury was I got a chance to focus a lot more on the mental aspect of the game,” said Corbin, an All-State player out of Newcastle High. “I prepare differently now. I can see better how the games are developing. In a weird way, I think the injury forced me to add an extra dimension into my game.”
The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is the Bulldogs' third-leading receiver through two games. He has seven receptions for 48 yards. As a sophomore, Corbin had 36 catches for 389 yards.
*Cox is scheduled to televise Langston's home football game vs. Texas College at 6 p.m. Oct. 13. ... Northeastern A&M cracked the National Junior College Athletic Association's top-20 football poll after beating then-No. 9 Blinn (Texas) last weekend. NEO (3-0) is No. 14. Oklahoma's only football-playing junior college is in the rankings for the first time in seven seasons. ... NEO punter Garrett Powell was named NJCAA Special Teams Player of the Week. The Bartlesville product averaged 55 yards on three punts. ... Southern Nazarene quarterback Dylan Terry was sacked 10 times during last week's 17-7 loss at Friends (Kan.). He was sacked five times for minus-36 yards by defensive end Dexter Davis, who, a week earlier, was NAIA Defensive Player of the Week after totaling four sacks against St. Mary (Kan.).
COMPILED BY SCOTT MUNN