MOUNT PLEASANT – After a better showing on offense in its second game, Iowa Wesleyan College gets ready to face another tough opponent this week when it hosts the University of St. Francis (Ind.) at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Mapleleaf Stadium.
The Tigers face their second ranked team in a row, this week taking on a St. Francis team ranked 17th in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Cougars are also ranked seventh in the Victory Sports Network NAIA Top 25 poll and have been a staple in the national rankings for the past decade, appearing in the NAIA national poll for 130 consecutive weeks. The game is also the second of three straight ranked teams on the schedule for Wesleyan, which next week will face a McKendree (Ill.) University team ranked #8 in the NAIA coaches’ poll.
IWC is coming off a 48-21 loss to Coe College last week in its home opener and the Old Threshers Bowl. Kevin McConnell (So.-Kansas City, Mo.) fired three touchdown passes as the Tigers hung around much of the night against the Kohawks, who came into the game ranked 12th in NCAA Division III. IWC passed for 274 yards but Coe scored 27 second half points and piled up 443 yards of offense to pull away in the second half after leading the Tigers just 21-14 at halftime.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – St. Francis has been one of the powers in the NAIA almost since the inception of its football program in 1998. Last year was actually a down year for the Cougars, who posted a 7-3 record and missed the NAIA playoffs for the first time in 11 years. Over its 12 years of playing football, USF has averaged 10 wins per season, but last season the Cougars ranked 15th of 16 teams in the MSFA in turnovers forced and turnover margin and finished in a three-way tie for second in the MSFA Mideast League.
Kevin Donley has coached the St. Francis football program since its beginning and has a 121-26 record at the school. Offensively the Cougars return their starting quarterback in Shaine Tierney and many key players from that unit, though the team lost All-American running back Daniel Carter. Defensively the team has just three senior starters and features seven freshmen and sophomores starting.
SERIES HISTORY – St. Francis has won five of the six all-time meetings between the two schools. Last season the Cougars blew out the Tigers 55-0 at USF. The Cougars scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of the first half to take a 28-0 halftime lead and racked up 600 yards of total offense. The lone win for IWC was in the first-ever meeting in 1998, when the Tigers capped their season with a 41-35 win over the Cougars in Fort Wayne.
MC CONNELL HEATS UP – After struggling badly on offense in the season-opening loss to Trinity International, the Tigers started to get things cranking against Coe. McConnell threw for 218 yards and completed touchdown passes to freshmen Marc Ballatori (Tequesta, Fla.), Taylor Day (West Burlington, Iowa) and Leondre Washington (St. Louis, Mo.). The three touchdown passes was two more than McConnell threw for in eight games last year as a freshman, and it was just the second time since 2002 that an IWC quarterback had thrown for three or more TD’s in a game. The only more prolific performance in the past eight years came when Bryan Abihider threw for five touchdown passes in Wesleyan’s 2008 season opener against Waldorf.
ANOTHER SEASON OPENER – This is IWC’s third game of the season-and the third straight week the Tigers have faced a team playing its season opener. Wesleyan’s first game against Trinity International was the opener for both teams, and last week Coe opened its season against IWC. This week St. Francis becomes the last of 16 teams in the MSFA to open its season. The Cougars did get to face some competition other than each other in fall practice, though, as the team scrimmaged against Trine (Ind.) University, a nationally ranked NCAA Division III program.
DEFENSIVE FEAT – The Tiger defense didn’t have a great overall outing against Coe, allowing 48 points and nearly 450 yards of offense. IWC was able to accomplish a feat that no other team could against Coe last year, though, as it intercepted Kohawks’ quarterback Brad Boyle twice. Boyle threw just one interception in 12 games last season, and at one point set an NCAA record with 307 passes thrown without a single interception. In all the Tigers intercepted three Coe passes and recovered a total of four turnovers in the game.
Darious Watson (Sr.-Bellwood, Ill.), Dominique Richards (Sr.-Bronx, N.Y.) and Kerry Hartley (Fr.-Lithonia, Ga.) were three of the stars on defense for Wesleyan against Coe. Watson led the team with nine tackles and added an interception and a fumble recovery. Richards had seven tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks, and Hartley had four tackles, an interception and two more passes broken up.
GUEST COACHES – A new feature under first-year IWC Head Coach Kent Anderson is the Guest Faculty Coach Program. For each home game two IWC faculty members have been invited to join the Tigers throughout game day, from the pre-game meal and meetings to being on the sidelines and in the locker room with the team before, during and after the game. Last week professors Tony Matsune and Lori Muntz were guest coaches, while this week professors Shawna Hudson and Maryellen Potts will be with the team on Saturday.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will be available to listen to online from the IWC Web site at http://www.iwc.edu/onlinemedia. IWC student Casey Mangold will call the action. St. Francis will also broadcast from its school Web site at www.saintfranciscougars.com. Joe Parson, Phil Houk and Art Mandelbaum will call the game for USF.
Complete IWC-USF Game Notes