MOUNT PLEASANT – After two straight exciting last-minute wins, Iowa Wesleyan College would love to add to that string this week when it faces rival William Penn University on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Mapleleaf Stadium.
The Tigers will be looking for their biggest win yet this season when they face the Statesmen, who come in undefeated and ranked 15th in the latest NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll. The game also will be a battle between two teams near the top of the standings in the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League, with Penn 2-0 in league play while Wesleyan is 2-1.
IWC is coming off its first Homecoming win in five years, a 30-24 win over Waldorf last week. Jarrod Mikel (Fr.-Houston, Texas) scored on a two-yard run with 25 seconds left in the game to break a tie, and Kevin McConnell (So.-Kansas City, Mo.) again led the Tigers down the field in the final minutes for a second straight win in the final minute. McConnell received his second MSFA Midwest League award this season, and the win gave Iowa Wesleyan its first two-game winning streak since 1997 and its first Homecoming win since 2005.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – The Tigers now get set to take on what has been one of the hotter teams in the NAIA the first half of the season. William Penn has defeated its five opponents by a combined score of 223-87 and is averaging 44.6 points per game, ranking fifth in the country. The Statesmen also lead the country in rushing, averaging 405 yards per game on the ground with their option offense led by freshman quarterback Taylor Parsons. Penn also has been solid on defense, allowing 259.2 yards per game to rank fourth overall in the MSFA defensively.
The Statesmen are loaded with senior starters with 13, including five senior starters on the offensive line. Seventh-year Head Coach Todd Hafner has WPU at 5-0 to start the season for the first time since 1975, a year when Penn went 10-0 and made its only playoff appearance in school history in the NAIA Division II playoffs.
SERIES HISTORY – This is the 66th meeting all-time between Iowa Wesleyan and William Penn. The Statesmen lead the series 34-25-6 and are on a 10-game winning streak in the series. IWC has not defeated Penn since opening the 1987 season with a 27-0 win. Last year WPU defeated the Tigers 44-14, scoring 30 points over the second and third quarters to take control.
HOT STREAK – McConnell now has won back-to-back MSFA Midwest League Offensive Player of the Week awards, becoming the first IWC player to ever achieve that feat. The sophomore quarterback has now topped 1,000 yards passing for the season, and last week his 30 completions and 319 yards passing were the most by a Tiger quarterback since Sheldon Cross completed 40 of 60 passes for 339 yards on Sept. 21, 2002, in a 45-20 loss to St. Francis (Ind.).
With 1,141 yards passing this season, McConnell has also already moved into the top 10 all-time in passing yardage at Iowa Wesleyan. The sophomore has thrown for 1,953 yards in two years, which puts him ninth all-time in school history for career passing yards. Next up on the all-time list is Jim Leigh, who ranks eighth all-time and threw for 1,966 yards in his career from 1975-78.
BIZARRE GAME – Earlier this season William Penn was involved in one of the crazier games one will see anywhere in college football this year. The Statesmen and Quincy battled on Sept. 18 and went up and down the field, with Penn pulling out a 67-58 win. The teams combined for 75 points in the first half alone, with WPU taking a 47-28 halftime lead in a game that was played on a muddy field. Quincy scored 24 points in the fourth quarter, almost coming back from a 61-34 deficit with less than 10 minutes left in the game. Penn rushed for 540 yards in the game, while Quincy countered with 498 yards passing as the two teams combined for 1,202 yards of total offense.
NEXT MAN UP – With the loss of Cameron Jones (Jr.-O’Fallon, Mo.) for the season due to a broken ankle suffered in the game two weeks ago against St. Francis (Ill.), a number of players on defense stepped up last week against Waldorf. Linebacker Mike Tupai (Jr.-San Francisco, Calif.) had nine tackles and a fumble recovery, while Chris Owens (Sr.-Greer, S.C.) also added nine tackles and 1 1/2 tackles for loss. Tarvis Gordon (So.-Sanford, Fla.) continued his good play on the defensive line with seven tackles, and Darious Watson (Sr.-Bellwood, Ill.) added seven tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss, as well as a pass break-up. As a team the Tigers finished with eight plays stopped for loss, two turnovers forced and three passes broken up.
STOP THE RUN – There is little doubt Wesleyan’s success in Saturday night’s game will be determined by how well the Tigers can stop William Penn’s unique option offense. The Statesmen are far and away leading the NAIA in rushing, averaging more than 100 yards/game more than any other school. WPU is averaging more than seven yards per rushing attempt and has seven players who have rushed for at least 100 yards on the season through five games.
In contrast, IWC ranks 15th of 16 teams in the MSFA in rushing defense, allowing over 243 yards per game. The Tigers did get some good prep work for this week with their game last week against Waldorf, which also runs an option offense. The Warriors gained 161 yards against Wesleyan but averaged less than four yards per attempt. The Tigers also did a good job of keeping Waldorf from the big play on the ground, allowing no run longer than 16 yards.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will once again be aired online from the IWC Web site at http://www.iwc.edu/onlinemedia, with IWC student Casey Mangold calling the play-by-play. William Penn will also produce an online broadcast at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/wpu.portal#. Scott Dailey will call the play-by-play.
Complete IWC-WPU Game Notes