MOUNT PLEASANT - After a week of rest, the Iowa Wesleyan College football team will return to the field for its final regular season game Saturday afternoon against St. Ambrose University at 1 p.m. at Mapleleaf Stadium.
The Tigers will be looking to end the season on a high note in the final game for eight seniors. IWC also will get a last shot at scoring its first four-win season since 1997, and its first winning record in Mid-States Football Association play since joining the league in 1996.
Wesleyan will also be looking for a much better all-around effort than its past two games, which ended as lopsided losses to Saint Xavier and Grand View. In their last time out the Tigers turned the ball over on the first offensive play of the game and things never got better in a 73-6 loss to Grand View. The Vikings scored on every possession before running out the clock at the end of the game, and the IWC offense moved the ball in spurts but turned the ball over five times.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – This week the Tigers face a St. Ambrose team that also is coming off a loss to Grand View, as the Bees lost to the Vikings 20-17 last week. St. Ambrose has a misleading record in that the Bees’ five losses have come by a total of 30 points, including four by a touchdown or less. SAU is one game behind Wesleyan in the MSFA Midwest League standings and at 4-5. A loss would give the Bees their first losing season since 1999, and St. Ambrose already has been guaranteed its first losing mark in MSFA play since that year.
The Fighting Bees’ offense has picked up in the last five weeks, coinciding with when Barney O’Donnell took over as the starting quarterback. After not scoring more than 28 points in any of their first four games, O’Donnell has helped SAU average almost 34 points per game over the last five games. He has been a threat passing and running, throwing for 14 touchdowns and 1,173 yards while also rushing for 627 yards and six touchdowns. He also has one of the top receivers in the country in Michael Hayward, who has caught 63 passes for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
SERIES HISTORY – This is the 48th meeting all-time between the Tigers and Fighting Bees. St. Ambrose leads the all-time series between the schools 31-14-2 and has won 11 straight meetings. Last year the Bees defeated the Tigers 42-0 as Beau Foiles set an SAU single-game record with 293 receiving yards. Wesleyan’s last win in the series came on Oct. 31,1998, a 31-27 win in Mount Pleasant where Terry Taylor scored the winning touchdown with two seconds left in the game to give IWC the win.
SENIORS’ FINAL GAME – Saturday’s game will be the final one for seven Iowa Wesleyan players: Tim Chavez (Champaign, Ill.), Greg Fields (St. Louis, Mo.), Lawrence Moore (Country Club Hills, Ill.), Chris Owens (Greer, S.C.), T.J. Tolliver (Bellwood, Ill.) and Darious Watson (Bellwood, Ill.). It also will be Senior Day for Brent Keaster (Visalia, Calif.), who has not played this season due to knee surgery. Of the seniors Chavez, Fields, Moore and Watson are four-year players and letter winners for the Tigers, while Owens, Richards and Tolliver played three years each at Wesleyan. Also being honored Saturday will be five players who are juniors in eligibility but are seniors academically and are expected to graduate this year: Brayden Bergren (Mediapolis, Iowa), Maxmillian Chambers (Bloomington, Ill.), Kenrick Lawson (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Brian Schrock (Congerville, Ill.) and Allante Taylor (Detroit, Mich.).
LAST CHANCE FOR RECORDS – The countdown to whether Moore will break the IWC school record in receiving yards will be over one way or the other on Saturday as the senior plays his final game for the Tigers. Moore needs 70 yards receiving in his final game to tie the school record of 2,196 career receiving yards held by Marcus Washington (1989-91). The senior also is currently second and looks like he’ll finish second at the school in career catches. Moore enters the final game with 212 receptions for his career and would need 14 catches to tie Bruce Carter (1989-90) for the career mark of 226 receptions.
In addition to finish among Iowa Wesleyan’s all-time career receiving leaders, Moore’s senior season also is going to rank among the best in school history. Moore comes into the finale having made 63 catches, which is tied with Washington in 1991 for the seventh-most in a season in school history. With five receptions he will tie John Sparrow’s 68 catches in 1998 for the fourth-most ever, and Moore already holds the mark for third-most catches in a season with 76 in 2008.
OVERALL OFFENSIVE UPGRADE THIS YEAR – The struggles of the past two games can obscure some the improvement the IWC offense has made this season from last. The Tigers have already thrown for 2,328 yards this season, more than 1,000 yards more than last year and the most by a Wesleyan team since 1998. And with 2,901 yards of total offense, the Tigers are well over last year’s 11-game total of 2,096 yards. Quarterbacks Kevin McConnell (So.-Kansas City, Mo.) and Brett Brodersen (So.-Visalia, Calif.) also have thrown 18 touchdown passes between them, 16 more than IWC threw last year, and overall the Tigers have scored 29 touchdowns this year, 17 more than all of last season.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will again be aired online from the IWC Web site at http://www.iwc.edu/onlinemedia, with IWC student Casey Mangold handling the play-by-play. St. Ambrose also will provide a live broadcast available online to listen to at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/stam.portal#.
Complete IWC-SAU Game Notes