After opening the 2014 football season with a road victory, the Stetson Hatters return home to Spec Martin Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening for the first of six home games this fall.
Kickoff for the Hatters’ tilt with visiting Florida Tech is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Tickets are still available for the opener as well as the rest of the 2014 home schedule through the Stetson Athletics Ticket Office.
In addition to being available on the Stetson Hatters Radio Network (WSBB AM 1230 & AM 1490 and AM 740 The Game) a live video stream of the game will be available through Hatter Vision on the Stetson Athletics web site GoHatters.com.
Hatters coach Roger Hughes said there is no understating the importance of playing in front of the home crowd.
“The support of the home crowd and the university, it is just different when we are here,” Hughes said. “Our kids draw a lot of energy from that and they are anxious to get back home.”
The matchup against Florida Tech, which will be playing its season-opener on Saturday, gives the Hatters a chance to avenge a loss from 2013 that the Stetson players and coaches felt got away. The Panthers won the meeting a year ago 20-13, scoring the winning touchdown with just 1:09 left to play.
The turning point in the game came before the FIT winning drive. Stetson returned a kickoff for an apparent touchdown after the Panthers tied the game with 6:25 left. The return was nullified by a penalty and, three plays later, Stetson turned the ball over.
“Last year we returned that kickoff for a touchdown and got it called back and everyone wants to point to that,” Hughes said. “What people don’t remember is that we still had the ball first and 10 at their 30 and had a third and three, got the first down, but through effort trying to get more, we ended up fumbling. That is what cost us the game.
“We felt like we let that one get away and out guys are looking forward to, first, being back in our home venue. Second, I think we felt we let that one slip away and we would like to get it back.”
The game against FIT, which plays in the scholarship Division II Gulf South Conference, will be the first of two straight games for the Hatters against scholarship foes. Those two games, both at home, will provide the Hatters with a measuring stick for how they may stack up against the rest of the schedule.
“I think every time we step on the field it is a big test because we are still playing with sophomores and freshmen,” Hughes said. “The key is to continue to play with confidence. The biggest thing we are fighting, mentally, is the ability to come back from adversity. If the other team has a big play on offense, we can’t let it beat us twice.”
If the first game of the season was any indication, this version of Hatters football appears better equipped to deal with adversity. After getting off to a great start with a blocked punt for a touchdown last week, the Hatters surrendered 10 straight points to Warner.
The response from the Hatters was a 25-point second quarter that basically put the game away.
“Last week, the nice thing is that we had so many nice things happen for us early that it got us excited,” Hughes said. “We gave up an interception deep in our own territory and the defensive held them to three points. Our kids responded. If our kids are able to continue to do that, understanding that there are ebbs and flows in the games, that is probably the next thing in the progress we need to have.”
For the Hatters, the challenge this week is to get ready for a team they haven’t seen. FIT’s coaches will have a leg up in that department, having dispatched a group of coaches to watch Stetson play Warner last weekend.
“We don’t know much,” Hughes said. “We have the film from last year, which is more than we had last year. When I look at the film, I keep asking myself why I didn’t see something last year. It was because I didn’t have any film last year.”
What they do know is that the Panthers have eight starters back on defense and, instead of having a senior quarterback, they will send a redshirt freshman, Mark Cato, out to start the game. That likely means that FIT will rely even more on the running game than they did last year.
“I thought they were a physical team that was fast and extremely athletic last year,” Hughes said. “Physically, looking at their team last year, I thought we would have more mismatches than we did. It will be a good test, but there are no bad tests. We have to play our A game every week. We can’t turn the ball over and we can’t give up explosive plays. If we do that, we should have a chance to be in every game.”
Fans who have not yet purchased tickets for the 2014 season still have time to do so. In fact, the Stetson Athletics Ticket Office is running a special flash sale on tickets to the home opener against Florida Tech. Tickets in the West Reserved area of Spec Martin Stadium are being reduced to $25, East Reserved tickets to $20 and General Admission tickets to $10.
This ticket special is good only for online purchases by following the link HERE. Use the promo code WEEKEND14.
Season tickets for the entire six game home season are also available for as little as $90 and there also mini packs that group the four night games into one package for as little as $66 and two game packs that pair the homecoming game against Marist on Nov. 8 with any of the other five games for as little as $44.
Visit the Stetson Athletics Ticket office, located in the Edmunds Center on Pennsylvania Ave., or call 386-738-HATS to place your ticket order. The ticket office is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Orders can also be placed online at GoHatters.com/tix or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org .