FORT VALLEY -- The temperature barely had cracked 80 degrees by the time practice was done, and apparently the gnats that usually watch practice and feed afterward were elsewhere.
Sweat still dripped off the noses of Fort Valley State players as they headed to shower and to get to class, but Brian Cornish was ready for a little more.
This is perfect, the freshman offensive lineman said. I could stay in this all day.
In past years, FVSU coaches would have been more than willing to run the Wildcats more after practice to catch up on conditioning that the players had fallen behind on.
But not this year.
One difference that was apparent with the 2013 version of the Wildcats compared to their recent predecessors was a team in good shape. While some FVSU players struggled with the heat during Saturdays 36-21 loss to defending national champion Valdosta State, the Wildcats werent nearly as out of shape as they might have appeared in recent early season games.
Yes, thats the best condition weve been in, head coach Donald Pittman said. We did it the old-fashioned way. We worked, and we worked in the heat.
Cornish was an example.
The freshman offensive lineman earned a starting spot only a few weeks ago and played most of FVSUs 79 offensive snaps on Saturday.
Im in real good shape, he said. Ive been here all summer. Living in Warner Robins really benefitted me because I was able to come here all summer and run and get in shape.
Fewer of FVSUs mistakes Saturday were connected to players being just too tired. They were mistakes Pittman said will take little effort to fix, a process that began Sunday.
It can all be fixed, he said. It was from not playing together. We needed to practice together, and all that will come together.
Injuries and regular administrative issues kept some starters from practicing regularly, but Pittman said all that is taken care of and the Wildcats should enter Saturdays game at Savannah State having had a full week with nearly every regular getting in quality practice time.
The improved conditioning plus a better practice regimen can only improve confidence.
Valdosta was a team we could have beat, Cornish said. We just made too many mistakes. I think that helped us realize we can make an impact on this season.