Bob Casey's confidence hasn't waned.
Despite consecutive subpar showings to close out nonconference play, the goals for the Merced college football team remain the same. The Blue Devils want to win the Golden Gate Conference title and record the school's first winning season since 1997.
If MC (2-4) can accomplish the first goal, it might have a chance at the second.
GGC play gets underway on Saturday with no clear-cut favorite. The league is a collective 7-19, with West Hills (2-3) and the Blue Devils the only two with multiple wins. MC is the only team with a victory against an opponent that's .500 or better.
"There's no doubt you look around the league and how things have gone, and it all looks pretty even," Casey said. "There's no mystery why we've struggled the last two weeks. We've given up nearly 40 points either on defensive scores or as a result of turnovers.
"We had seven possessions in the first half last week. We turn the ball over in four of them and then punt once and score twice with the other three.
"If we hold onto the ball and make teams earn their scores, we're talking single-score games in the fourth quarter at the least.
"With our kicking game, I like those chances."
MC will know where it stands quickly, opening at defending champion Chabot on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
Here's a look at how the Gladiators and the rest of the GGC shape up.
The Gladiators are led by all-conference dual-threat quarterback Brandyn Eckhart (1,085 total yards and 10 touchdowns).
The offense has had good balance passing for 185 yards per game and rushing for 217.
Where Chabot has struggled is on the defensive side of the ball. The Gladiators are surrendering 486 yards and 38 points per game.
West Hills (2-3)
The Falcons have blowout losses to Sequoias, Fresno City and San Francisco City, but have bounced back with convincing wins over San Jose City and Gavilan.
Sophomore running back Cameron Boyd (705 yards, nine touchdowns) leads its ground attack, which has averaged 456 yards its last two outings.
A minus seven turnover ratio has proved costly.
The Tigers' defense has been sharp, losing three games to some of Nothern California's top programs by single scores. Reedley is surrendering almost 400 yards per game, but has held opponents to an average of under 27 points with 13 turnovers.
Putting the ball in the end zone has been the issue, scoring under 20 points per game.
Reedley will take to the air 46 times a game, led by Sean Stell Jr.'s 961 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He'll spread the ball around with seven different receivers hauling in at least 10 receptions on the year.
Turnover differential (-9) has been an issue for Laney as well.
It's led them to score a league worst 16.6 points per game. The Eagles have good offensive balance with QBs Adam Robinson and Kent Austin combining for 914 passing yards and a trio of rushers that averages 154 yards.
The Laney defense hasn't been real active, forcing 11 turnovers and recording just four sacks. It's led to the Eagles surrendering 32 points per game.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.