MOUNT PLEASANT – For the first time in nearly a month the Iowa Wesleyan College football team will face a team not ranked nationally when it takes on the University of St. Francis (Ill.) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
After three straight games against ranked teams, the Tigers are just happy to be playing a team that doesn’t have a number in front of its name. IWC’s last three games were all against teams ranked nationally at the time. Two of those three teams (Coe and St. Francis of Indiana) have since moved into the top 10 in their respective national polls, while a third (McKendree) was ranked in the top 10 earlier this year.
Wesleyan lost to McKendree last week by a 58-3 score in its Mid-States Football Association Midwest League opener. The Tigers got their lone points on a 29-yard field goal by freshman kicker Kris Dolinsky (Fishers, Ind.) but paid for three turnovers which the Bearcats turned into 21 points. IWC moved the ball successfully at times and finished with just three less first downs than McKendree (18 to the Bearcats’ 21), but the #14 ranked Bearcats posted a 474-197 advantage in yardage in the game.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – Though the Tigers aren’t facing a ranked team this week, the game against St. Francis is hardly a vacation. The Fighting Saints come in with a 1-2 record but have been toughened by playing three teams so far that all are currently ranked or were ranked at the time of USF’s playing them. In its last game St. Francis defeated Grand View 17-10, picking up a win over a team that was ranked 20th in the NAIA at the time. The Saints also have losses to currently ranked NAIA schools Marian (currently ranked 13th) and St. Xavier (4th).
The Fighting Saints finished 3-8 last year, 2-5 in the MSFA Midwest. That came one year after Head Coach Mike Uremovich’s team had a breakthrough season, going 7-4 in 2008 for the first program’s first winning season in 17 years. USF’s offense centers around quarterback E.J. White and running back Connor Krisch, while the defense is led by Wayne Johnson, whose four interceptions are tied for second nationally in the NAIA. Johnson had three picks in the game against Grand View and for his efforts was named MSFA Midwest Defensive Player of the Week, while Krisch received league Offensive Player of the Week honors after that game.
SERIES HISTORY – The Fighting Saints lead the all-time series 9-4 and have won the last four meetings. Last year USF won going away by a 51-6 score, scoring 34 points in the first half. The Saints rushed for 315 yards on their way to 502 yards of total offense, while the Tigers got their lone points on a one-yard touchdown run by Jaren Maybin.
MOVING UP THE CHARTS – With one catch in Saturday’s game, Lawrence Moore (Sr.-Country Club Hills, Ill.) will move into a tie for second all-time in receptions by an IWC player. Moore enters the USF game with 167 career catches, one behind Terry Taylor (1996-99) for second on the all-time list. Moore would need 59 catches over the Tigers’ final seven games to tie for the top spot on the all-time list, currently held by Bruce Carter (1990-91) with 226 catches.
Teammate Greg Fields (Sr.-St. Louis, Mo.) also will reach a milestone with his next reception. Fields enters Saturday’s game with 99 career catches, and with one more will become the ninth player in Wesleyan school history with 100 or more career receptions. Fields is currently ninth on the Tigers’ all-time list in receptions and is currently 27 catches behind Michael Black (1989, 1991) for eighth.
CONSISTENT LINEBACKERS – Though the early season has been a struggle, the IWC defense has had a pair of consistent performers in Cameron Jones (Jr.-O’Fallon, Mo.) and Chris Owens (Sr.-Greer, S.C.).
Jones and Owens are ranked 1-2 on the team in tackles, with Jones registering 32 stops so far and Owens right behind with 29. In four games Jones has made 11, seven, seven and seven tackles. In those same games Owens has made ten, six, six and seven tackles. Jones also leads the team with two fumbles recovered, while Owens paces the team with 3 1/2 tackles for loss and also has added one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery.
RECEIVING THREATS – IWC has received contributions from a number of freshmen wide receivers this season. Marc Ballatori (Tequesta, Fla.) has been the most obvious contributor, with his 224 receiving yards and two touchdowns leading the team. Ridge Hobbs (New London, Iowa) has also added eight receptions for 105 yards, Leondre Washington (St. Louis, Mo.) has six catches for 70 yards, including a touchdown against Coe, and Taylor Day (West Burlington, Iowa) caught a touchdown pass against Coe as well.
The latest to join that group is LiMichael Peeples (Conyers, Ga.), who was one of the bright spots against McKendree. Peeples had three catches for 62 yards, or two more than he had all season entering the game. Included in that total was a 36-yard catch that was the Tigers’ longest gain of the game and that he made on his back, catching a tipped pass well down the field just after he had fallen to the ground.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will be aired online from the IWC Web site at http://www.iwc.edu/onlinemedia. IWC Sports Information Director Adam Glatczak will call the play-by-play. St. Francis will also have a broadcast available at http://www.stfrancis.edu/content/theedge/stream/index.html.
Complete IWC-USF (Ill.) Game Notes