8 things to know before Mules kickoff their season

Written by Kaitlin Brothers

Sports Editor
In honor of Jim Svoboda entering his eighth year as head coach, I decided to put together a list of eight things you should know before the Mules kickoff their season against the Pittsburg State Gorillas. Some are obvious… others may surprise you. Take a look.
Brook Bolles will get to start as QB
Let’s get straight to the good stuff, shall we? Garrett Fugate has graduated and Brooke Bolles will be the starting QB in the season opener. Now, some of Mules Nation may be unfamiliar with Bolles. That’s understandable. He completed just 3-of-9 passing attempts and ran for 67 yards on 11 carries last season. For those who are familiar with Bolles, they might simply know him as “the guy from the Missouri Southern game”. Last October, Fugate was pulled in the third quarter at Missouri Southern after the Mules pulled out to a substantial lead. Bolles was put in the game and properly introduced himself to those in attendance. He threw a 29-yard touchdown pass and ran out the pocket for a 67-yard touchdown. So whether you simply know Bolles from the Missouri Southern game or you haven’t seen him play at all, get there early and find a spot. You won’t want to miss his debut as a starting quarterback.
The Mule-stable is still full of talent
Although Fugate’s time at UCM has come to a close, not everyone graduated. In fact,  28 of the players on the Mules roster have started at least one game in their career. The Mules have several returning 2016 All-MIAA players including Jaylen Zachery, Derrick Puni, Seth Hebert, Monteze Latimore, Chris Gomez, Dalainey Taala, and Dylan Albertson.
We’ve seen this before
Yes, the Mules are starting out this season against the same opponent as last season: Pittsburg State. Last year the Mules fell behind 13-0 early on, but found their stride and outscored the Gorillas 27-3 over the second and third quarter. They went on to win 34-27.
There is a Perfect sleeper pick for 2017
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as Division II fantasy football. BUT if there were such thing, Kyrion Parker would be a perfect sleeper pick. Parker is a receiver that transferred from Riverside CC in California. When asked about new faces to watch out for, Coach Svoboda mentioned Parker and said he has “big play potential”.
Pittsburg State had the top offense in the MIAA in 2016
The Gorillas averaged a monstrous 481 yards per game last season. They not only led the MIAA, but ranked 14th in the nation when it came to yards per game. Micheal Rose is a name to watch for on the Gorilla side of the ball. Rose ranked third in the MIAA last season with 73 rushing yards per game. The Gorillas also excelled in the passing game. John Roderique ranked only behind Garret Fugate in yards per game with 270. He also threw 19 touchdown passes last season.
It’s Miller Time
He’s back! Austin Miller was a force to be reckoned with in 2015, snagging three interceptions, notching three and a half sacks, and leading the team with 86 tackles. In 2016? Not so much. After starting just two games Miller suffered a season-ending injury. The Mule’s season opener will be a perfect opportunity for Miller to pick up where he left off.
Jay-Z is number one in our hearts and number one on the charts
I am, of course, talking about the player who wears the number One for the Mules, Jaylen Zachery. And in case you’re not up to date on Jaylen Zachery’s accolades, let me catch you up. Zachery earned first team All-MIAA as both a receiver AND a return specialist. He was named MIAA Special Teams Player of the Year. He accumulated a staggering 1,828 all-purpose yards last season. This marked the most by any player in the MIAA and was the fifth most in a single season in Mules history. He also tied a UCM record with two kickoff returns in a single season.
The Party starts way before Game time
Okay, I saved an obvious one for last. As Mules fans know, the university encourages tailgating. Designated tailgating lots will open three hours before game time and will stay until the end of halftime. The 13th annual Get The Red Out Street Fair will take place prior to the game starting at 4 p.m. on Holden St. between Clark and South streets. The event will have organizations boothes, plenty of games and inflatables for the kids.
Whatever you do before the game, don’t forget to get into the game at some point.
Gates open two hours before kickoff.