Jake Mueller stopped play twice in the last 20 minutes of practice Wednesday when his starting defense was up against the scout team offense. In both instances it was to call an offside penalty on the defense and more importantly, explain exactly what each player did wrong.
“Every small mistake we have to make sure they know what just happened,” Mueller said. “We can’t let anything go. Hopefully those things continue to tighten up.”
Mueller liked the intensity and enthusiasm his team brought for the first quarter and-a-half of last week’s 51-3 loss to Iowa City West, but the eighth year head coach knows his team needs that for fourth quarters this week. But more than anything, they will need to play smart assignment football tonight at Pleasant Valley.
The Muskies know their assignments, but Mueller said the next step is getting the small details right on the field. He knows that in order for his team to stand up to Pleasant Valley’s triple option attack on the road every person on the field has to do his job, and has to stay disciplined to clog up running lanes.
“It’s more (important) in a week like this when it’s such an assignment detailed offense,” Mueller said. “When you play defense against an option team it all comes down to your assignment. You have to be disciplined to really focus on what you need to do.”
The triple option was in full effect last week for Pleasant Valley, as it rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns in a statement 35-0 road win over Iowa City High. Meanwhile, Muscatine was on the wrong end of another lopsided loss last week that was aided by early self-inflicted mistakes and miscues. Mueller know that can’t happen tonight against a 2-0 Pleasant Valley team with a “unique offense,” and size “coming out of their ears” on defense.
“They just present a set of problems that nobody else on our schedule does with their offense,” Mueller said. “A three or four day preparation to get your defense ready is a challenge.
“There’s no question we have to have a great start.”
Despite being outscored 101-9 in their first two games, Mueller said the Muskies haven’t let those struggles affect their attitude and effort, which is something he preached after their week one loss to Cedar Rapids Kennedy. Mueller is quick to point out his team’s schedule is “no joke,” and the players are fully aware of that as well. Kennedy is currently in the others receiving votes category of the week three Iowa Prep Football Poll, and Iowa City West is third with one first place vote. It doesn’t get any easier this week, as Pleasant Valley was the first team left out of the top 10 and received 18 votes.
He knew that with 26 departed starters from 2016 that it would be a process, but what he didn’t know was how his players would respond to the early adversity. So far so good, Mueller says, and now he hopes the execution and discipline will soon follow.
“Our kids are doing a great job of staying with us,” Mueller said. I’m really pleased with the attitude, and we haven’t had any negative attitudes at all and I appreciate that. Hopefully as we get going we can do a better job with our execution.”