Jerry Boyes has always been comfortable with mistakes. In fact, to a certain degree he encourages them in his football players. Make mistakes. Make them quickly. And don’t make them twice.
It’s part of the learning experience for Buffalo State football. And becoming better and gaining confidence from that experience? Well that’s maturity. And that’s what starting quarterback Casey Kacz has shown for the Bengals.
The senior from Sweet Home has embraced his leadership role for the Bengals this season and has led the team to a 2-0 start with wins over Cortland and Brockport.
He will face another big test on Saturday when the Bengals host Division III powerhouse and national No. 15 Wisconsin-Whitewater at noon at Coyer Field.
Kacz was named the quarterback for the D3Football.com National Team of the Week after completing 74 percent of his passes for 387 yards in a 42-40 win over Brockport.
Through the first two games, Kacz has thrown for 613 yards and three touchdowns. He also has 192 rushing yards on 31 carries with three touchdowns. His 708 yards are just 54 shy of matching the school’s record for career rushing by a quarterback. That mark of 762 was set by Dan Sansanese (1981-83).
But more important than the numbers to Boyes has been the way Kacz has taken leadership of the team and learned exactly how to run the offense, even if at times over the years it’s been through a bit of trial and error.
“The word maturity is a big one and as a quarterback nothing beats experience,” Boyes said. “I’ve always said this about the definition of a quarterback: Yes you have to have the skill set to play the position, you have to be able to throw the ball and have good feet, but where I can call someone a quarterback is when they can lead. And part of being a great leader is knowing your material. Casey knows the offense. He knows how to attack a defense. And he has shown he can led a group of guys on the field from Point A to Point B. He has that grit that becomes contagious and that maturity and knowledge of the game has really elevated his play.”
That maturity came not just through game experience but from being able to make mistakes.
“That’s the normal course of how you learn,” Boyes said. “If you don’t make a mistake, how else will you learn? The real learning takes place when you make a mistake and you say, ‘Boy, I’m not gonna let that happen again.’
“Too often today, even in youth sports, you see coaches immediately step in and not allow their kids to fail. But that’s not the learning process. They’ve got to fail before they can have great success.”
Not that last year was a failure. Kacz threw for 2,168 yards with 11 touchdowns as the Bengals went 6-4 overall (their first winning season since 2000).
But Kacz saw plenty of opportunities to improve and embraced Boyes’ philosophy of learning and growing from mistakes.
“There are mistakes I made last year, just watching film where I say, ‘I can’t believe I did that,’ ” Kacz said. “It kind of sticks in my head. OK, I did this mistake before. Don’t ever do that again. So I might make other mistakes, but I try not to make the same mistake twice. I’m running out of mistakes to make, I think. That’s one thing we corrected. Mistakes we made last year, we’re not making this year so far.
“Coach Boyes trusts me whether it be play calling or speaking my mind to guys. I feel running the offense this year I’m a lot more confident back there. I have confidence that guys are going to make plays for me, too.”
The opportunity Saturday is another big test for the Bengals. Last year in Week Three, Buffalo State went to Whitewater and ended the three-time defending national champion’s 46-game winning streak, 7-6.
The Warhawks enter the game 1-0 and ranked 15th in the country after opening with a 17-7 home win over Washington University-St. Louis. The game is generating a lot of excitement around Buffalo State and Kacz is ready for the opportunity to show fans an exciting brand of Buffalo State football.
“I expect to score a lot more points, that’s for sure,” Kacz said. “I wouldn’t ask our defense to try and hold them to six points again. I don’t think that’s going to happen. If it does, it’s great, but we can’t put that on our defense. As an offense, we’ve got to put up points and we feel we have the game plan to do it, the players to do it, the talent. We just need to execute.
“A lot of people on campus have said they’re coming to the game. That’s great to get as many people as we can because they had a packed house when we went there. It’s exciting to play in front of a big crowd, especially at home.”