After dispatching of Alma to start its season, Heidelberg had two weeks to prepare for the Ohio Athletic Conference opener against Ohio Northern.
Like Heidelberg, the Polar Bears were off last week. They buried Alfred State, 55-0, in their first game of the season.
Ohio Northern suffered its first losing season under coach Dean Paul in 2012, but Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said the Polar Bears are better.
"I think they're improved, no question about it," Hallett said. "I think they've got some good players on both sides of the ball."
On offense, the Polar Bears are led by a new quarterback, Youngstown State transfer Patrick Angle.
"It's evident Patrick has some pretty good athleticism," Hallett said. "They're able to get back to doing some of the things they did when (former QB) Kyle Simmons was there, running some zone read offense-type stuff. That adds some things to their offense we haven't seen the last two years when Tyler Rue was in there."
Hallett said he's impressed with the Polar Bears running game of Justin Magazine and William Bodden, as well as the play of the offensive line and the receivers.
Hallett said there's some mystery about what ONU will do on offense.
"We've got to be in full mode of handling everything. With it being so early in the season, just, there's always the unknown that you're just not sure about," Hallett said. "I talked about that with Alma, some of that holds true here. With a commanding lead [against Alfred State], I don't know you have to dig too deep into your playbook. What are they gonna run that we haven't seen or prepared for? Those are some concerns."
On defense, Hallett said ONU has improved its depth, something Heidelberg took advantage of when it won big in Ada last season.
"We've had some success keeping them off balance a little bit," Hallett said. "I like their defensive unit, they have some guys up front that have the ability to make plays and they're deep. In the first game of the year, they played, I think, 10 offensive linemen. I think last year they may have had a drop off from 1s to 2s. So we were playing fast, and we were able to get their 1s off the field and play their 2s, and we were able to take advantage of that. But I think they have a good, solid crew up front."
Hallett praised Ohio Northern mike linebacker Dillon Kwiat, a Calvert graduate.
"We've seen him the last few years, he's a very good player for them," Hallett said.
Hallett said for his team, it's been two separate weeks - one for improvement, the other for preparation.
"With two weeks to prepare, there's two modes of operation: One is to spend two weeks to prepare for the opponent; the other - which is the one we follow - the bye week was more about just self-improvement and focus on things that need to be corrected. This week has very much been about Ohio Northern," he said. "We try not to make too much of a big deal about any one opponent. They're all equally important. Ohio Northern has an unbelievable track record, great history, great tradition."
Hallett also said he expects the Polar Bears to come in fired up.
"Unlike last year, when they took a tough opening season loss, when they went down to North Carolina to play North Carolina Wesleyan, they're coming in, I'm sure with a great deal of enthusiasm and confidence from having a 55-0 shutout." he said. "That will buoy the spirits pretty quickly. I think they're mentally going to be in a lot better place than they were in last year at this time."
At the same time, Hallett wants his players to simply go out and execute.
"We're gonna have to handle that initial rush, but I don't want out guys getting too overly (worked up) about anything, just go out and operate," Hallett said. "We've got to take care of us. We're competing against our own performances, our own mistakes, and if we can eliminate those things, we're a pretty good football team."
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. at Mayer Field.