Freshman wide receiver Danny Kittner came into Saturday’s game against Winona State with 10 receptions and zero touchdowns.
With a banged-up starting quarterback in junior Jordan Verlarde, the University of Mary (0-6, 0-4 North) has turned to freshman signal-caller Jason Hoekstra in the last four games.
But the change in quarterbacks hasn’t given Kittner any less confidence in his ability to make plays.
The Gilbert, Ariz., native has caught at least one pass in his first six career games with the Marauders and last week, Kittner popped off for a breakout performance in UMary’s 54-13 road loss to the Warriors and hauled in a career-high five receptions for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
Kittner knew that kind of performance was on the horizon.
“It’s been there every game,” Kittner said Tuesday about his playmaking opportunities. “I’ve been open but this game our offensive line really I think pass protected the best they have all year giving Jason (Hoekstra) time to throw and when that happens me and him will connect for touchdowns every game.”
Kittner is a confident man that’s one of the reasons he was named All-Region in his final season at Higley High School.
Prior to joining the Marauders, half of Kittner’s eight receptions went for touchdowns and on defense, he collected 39 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble.
While he’s had a successful first half of the 2018 season, UMary is struggling to stay competitive in games.
UMary has started the season 0-6 for the fourth straight year and hasn’t put together a winning streak since 2014 when they won back-to-back-to-back games in October.
But when you ask around, Kittner and they Marauders aren’t hanging their heads.
“A lot of struggles and adversity will be dealt with, we knew that before the season and have already been dealing with a lot of it during this season,” Kittner said. “We knew that this was part of it, but the mood in the locker room is live.”
“We’re upbeat and all in. It’s a process and we all believe in it.”
Players that actually believe in the system is something I haven’t seen on campus for a while. UMary head coach Craig Bagnell walked onto campus earlier this year, laid out his own plan and UMary athletic director Dale Lennon bought it.
Spreading the offense out and letting a quarterback sling it around the football field does look sexy, I have to admit.
It’s going to take time to build UMary’s defense but Brett Holinka has the Marauders allowing its fewest points per game (223) since 2015 through six games.
In one day, UMary will welcome Concordia University, St. Paul (2-4, 2-2 South) to the MDU Resources Community Bowl for a 2 p.m. Homecoming kickoff game.
“(They are) a good team just like every team we play,” Kittner added about Saturday’s showdown. “They are athletic and it’s going to be a tough game. Hopefully, we can pull out the win and get our first one.”