MOUNT PLEASANT – Last year both teams came into their mid-season meeting with winless marks, but both Iowa Wesleyan College and the University of St. Francis (Ill.) are sporting much improved teams heading into their meeting Saturday at 6 p.m. at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
Both teams have already surpassed their win totals for all of last season and have already posted the most wins by their respective programs in the past several years. IWC has already won more games than in the 2006 and 2007 seasons combined, while USF has already tied for its most wins in a single season since 2001 and is in the national rankings for the first time in 16 years.
It’s a far cry from last year, when both teams went into their matchup with matching 0-5 records. This week the Tigers will be looking to bounce back from a 28-12 loss to Olivet Nazarene last week. IWC got off to a 6-0 lead on a 49-yard touchdown run by Jaren Maybin (Jr.-Baltimore, Md.) on its first drive, but Olivet Nazarene controlled the rest of the game. Wesleyan ran just 45 plays on offense and allowed 256 yards rushing as ONU spoiled Homecoming for an IWC crowd of over 2,000.
The task this week is to slow down the USF Fighting Saints. St. Francis is off to a 4-1 start and is ranked 22nd in the NAIA even after a 34-16 loss last week to fellow ranked Mid-States Football Association Midwest League rival St. Ambrose. The Saints ‘Multiple I’ offense has featured a nice balance of passing mixed with the run and is ranked 2nd in the MSFA Midwest. Defensively USF’s ‘Attack 3-4’ unit is also second in the MSFA Midwest, allowing just under 300 yards per game.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – St. Francis has been the surprise team of the MSFA Midwest so far this season. The Fighting Saints have already surpassed their win total for all of last season and are looking for the program’s first winning season since going 6-5 in 1991. USF’s national ranking this season is also the program’s first time in the NAIA rankings since the 1991 season. After going 6-26 over his first three seasons, Head Coach Mike Uremovich saw a young team start to grow up late last year when the Saints won three of their final six games, and it has continued this year.
St. Francis is coming in off a loss to St. Ambrose in which the offense turned the ball over seven times. Prior to last week, USF led the entire MSFA with a +8 turnover margin, including a +5 margin in close wins over St. Xavier, Grand View and Urbana that came by a combined 17 points.
LAST MEETING – St. Francis ran off 30 unanswered points in the second half on its way to a 37-3 win last year at IWC. The Tigers led 3-0 after one quarter and trailed just 7-3 at halftime, but the Fighting Saints erupted with 23 points in the third quarter and outgained Wesleyan 288-20 in the second half.
St. Francis leads the series between the schools, winning seven of 11 meetings. Though the series overall has been rather even, the individual games have typically not been. Eight of the 11 meetings between the two schools have been decided by 16 points or more.
NUMBERS DISCUSSION – While it was a struggle for the IWC offense for most of the game last week, Maybin nearly posted his third straight 100-yard game, gaining 89 yards on 16 carries. The junior continues to rank high among the MSFA leaders in rushing with an average of 92.4 yards per game, fifth best in the entire league.
As a team the Tigers rank in the middle of the MSFA in the majority of offensive and defensive categories. Some exceptions: IWC is third in pass defense, allowing 155.0 yards per game so far; conversely, the Tigers are 12th in rush defense (162.6 ypg). Offensively, IWC is third-best in the MSFA in third down conversions, making 47.0 even after struggling last week (4 for 12). The Tigers are also fifth in the league in red zone percentage, converting on 13 of 16 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (81.2%) including 12 touchdowns.
SACK TIME – The Iowa Wesleyan defense also posted two more sacks last week, giving the team a total of 13 sacks in its first five games. Ten different players have registered at least half a sack, and the team leaders in the category are Kris Fleming (Jr.-Chicago, Ill.) and Jerry Wimes (Sr.-Mount Dora, Fla.) with two each.
In fact, one of the defensive themes this season has been many getting involved making plays. Defensive end Kyle DeRossett (Sr.-Dupo, Ill.) leads the team with 27 tackles, while 12 players have between 17 and 27 tackles on the season.
COMMON OPPONENT – Both IWC and St. Francis have already faced first-year program Grand View early in the season. The Tigers picked up a 36-24 win over the Vikings at home on Sept. 26, while the Fighting Saints defeated GVC 37-27 in Joliet a week earlier. In its game USF gained 387 yards of offense and scored 30 first half points while also taking advantage of four Grand View turnovers.
NOT FOOTBALL, BUT... – The last time an IWC team faced the Fighting Saints in Joliet was one of the most memorable sporting events for a Tiger sports team in the past year. The occasion was the NAIA Region VII baseball tourney this past May, where coming in Iowa Wesleyan had a losing record and was the tourney’s sixth and lowest seed. In their opener the Tigers faced top-seeded and nationally ranked St. Francis, and IWC promptly routed the Fighting Saints, 11-2, sending USF to an eventual early exit in the tourney and propelling IWC to a third-place finish at regionals.
TEAM AWARDS – The IWC coaching staff presented awards to five players after last week’s win over Grand View. Offensive MVP-Clint Hunold (Sr.-Donnellson, Iowa); special teams MVP-Tyler McGuire (Sr.-Mount Pleasant, Iowa); offensive scout team MVP-Kaleb Droz (Fr.-Ottumwa, Iowa); and defensive scout team MVP-William Brooks (Fr.-Macon, Ga.).
ON THE AIRWAVES – This week’s game will be broadcast back to the Joliet area and the University of St. Francis campus on WCSF, The Edge 88.7 FM, the USF campus radio station. A webstream will be available on the Internet at http://www.stfrancis.edu/theedge/stream/. Jon Versteeg will call the play-by-play with St. Francis Athletic Director Dave Laketa providing color commentary.
For more information regarding the IWC football program or any of the Tiger athletic teams, contact sports information director Adam Glatczak (319-385-6306 phone; 319-385-6384 FAX; firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.
IWC-USF Game Notes