What started so promisingly for Illinois College Football in 2013...

A perfect 8-0 record, pole position for the Midwest Conference Crown, a nearly guaranteed return to the Division III Playoffs...

Ended unceremoniously enough with an ill-timed skid at the finish line that ripped away every reward that had been seemingly in hand.

Garrett Campbell: "You know we had opportunities. You know, you lose a game in overtime on a blocked Field Goal then lose another one by two points when you have a chance to win the Conference Championship and go back to the National Playoffs."

Michael Bates: "I think the past two years, for that matter, have been a little disappointing in those last couple games. We've just got to finish strong."

Bryce Heaton: "It was big motivation in the weight room. We had a good off-season. A lot of young guys stepped up. Did great in Spring Ball. Everybody worked hard. So I think, we really used that as motivation to carry into this year. We all know the feeling of the loss now and we don't want that again. I think we want to get a ring this year."

If the preseason polls are to be believed, IC is positioned to do exactly that as your South Division favorites in the Midwest Conference.

Michael Bates "That definitely wouldn't have happened my Freshman year. It didn't happen my Freshman year coming in, so yeah, expectations have definitely risen for this program. But I think the one think is you just got to keep it in perspective and understand that we've still come up one game short three years in a row."

Michael Tonry: "Absolutely. Just the winning mentality that has been formed these last four years, hopefully will be passed down to these next guys. It's a great feeling. It also gives us a target on our back. But we wouldn't want it any other way."

Much of that enthusiasm wells from the return of key components to what has been one of the nation's most prolific D-3 Offenses for three years running. A potential All American Quarterback in Michael Bates and an All Conference Wide Receiver in Josh Gentille most notably.

Bryce Heaton: "Of course, Michael Bates. I mean, he can make pretty much any receiver good."

Garrett Campbell: "I think the fact that we have Michael Bates back, who easily could have been the Offensive Player of the Year along with Cecil (Brimmage) is going to be very beneficial. But I also think now what happens is a lot of guys have the opportunity to rise up to play their game at a new level."

But that production will have to be at a level that masks the fact that this is a program bidding goodbye to both the Midwest Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in Running Back Cecil Brimmage and Defensive Lineman Kurt Frischman.

Garrett Campbell: "We wont quite maybe have the speed at the Running Back position we've had, but we will have the explosiveness still. I'm not too worried about that. I'm really not too worried about the Receiving Corps. We will be okay there. Obviously, Quarterback is a pretty well set position even at the backup position with Brady Huber being there as well. So Offensively, I feel good. I feel we are doing some things right and we are kind of on the right track with that. Defensively, actually, I think our Front Seven may even be slightly better than we were last year, and definitely in the Front Four."

Blake Richardson: "Speed and violence is what coach preaches. We've just got to play aggressive and play to the whistle."

Garrett Campbell: "You know, I think one of the things we talk about in our program is that we want to keep moving forward. Whether it be progress with the stadium. And there's other plans that we've got, that we've kicked around and talked about. Whether it's the Conference and people suggesting that we could win the Conference. That's great but we always want to be in position where we just keep moving forward, whether its good or bad. We just want to keep going and not let things slow us down."