There were a lot of unknowns about the 2020 Ottawa University football team heading into Saturday’s opener.
The players answered some of those questions and gave the coaching staff a glimpse of what may come this season in Ottawa’s 27-21 season-opening victory over Oklahoma Panhandle State University at AdventHealth Field.
"It was not pretty at times," Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said. "At times, it was really pretty. You could tell we had some freshmen in some spots. You could tell there was a lot of new guys out there. There is some pretty exciting new guys out there. Hopefully, everybody saw the speed we have put out there."
Part of the puzzle for the coaches during the preseason practices was putting a bunch of new guys together and attempting to mesh them under the COVID-19 guidelines.
"Because of all the COVID stuff we have had to do, we have not had time to build our team with team-building activities," Kessinger said. "To me as coach, that was the unknown. How are we going to play together?"
The Braves came together as one and made plays to win the game.
"They are still learning, feeling each other out," Kessinger said.
The Ottawa defense made big plays to keep the Aggies in check. The visitors finished with 385 yards, but the Braves forced four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles.
"Defensively, I am proud of how hard they played," Kessinger said. "They saved the offense’s bacon several times."
The Aggies made it interesting at the end, scoring with 1:46 left to pull within six. They got the ball back with after an Ottawa fumble at their 49 with 40 seconds remaining. The Ottawa defense held as time ran out on the Aggies.
The Ottawa offense was inconsistent, finishing with 245 yards and 13 first downs.
"We can teach about missed opportunities," Kessinger said. "We had two opportunities in the first half we should have come away with touchdowns.
"When we had it rolling, it was easy calling plays. Being able to over come adversity — wherever they are at — that is going to be huge in the development of our young team."
Ottawa (1-0) plays 6 p.m. Saturday at home against Sterling.