MOUNT PLEASANT – The Iowa Wesleyan College football team will aim to open the season with a victory for the second year in a row when it hosts Trinity International University on Saturday night at 6 p.m. at Mapleleaf Stadium in Mount Pleasant.
The Tigers would love a duplication of last year’s opener, when IWC pounded Waldorf College 41-0. Bryan Abihider threw five touchdown passes, four to Lawrence Moore, and the defense posted Wesleyan’s first shutout in three years.
IWC also would be happy with a repeat of last year’s result against Trinity International. The Tigers defeated the Trojans 24-14 last year in Deerfield, Ill., picking up the program’s first Mid-States Football Association Midwest League victory since 2005. Jaren Maybin ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns and Moore caught 11 passes for 148 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown pass from Abihider. The Wesleyan defense also limited TIU to just 185 yards of offense and forced three turnovers. The game marked the final win of the season for the Tigers, who finished 3-8.
This year’s meeting between the teams will not be a league matchup, as Trinity International has moved to the MSFA Mideast League for 2009. Many other aspects of both teams will also be new, as this year’s matchup looks to shape up much differently from last year’s.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – Trinity International is led by second-year Head Coach Mike Gims, who has the task of turning around a Trojan program that has struggled with three wins over the past two years, including a 1-10 season last year. TIU will run a similar offense to last year but with many different personnel. Freshman left-hander Kindrick Dent will step in as quarterback, and he will play behind an almost all-new offensive line. The Trojans ran a significant amount of plays from the ‘Wildcat’ formation last year, with running back Cole Bamberger often taking snaps. Bamberger returns after rushing for 577 yards last year.
Defensively the Trojans’ base is a 4-3 alignment. Junior free safety Pete Miller led the team with 86 tackles last year and had a 74-yard interception return vs. IWC. Outside linebacker Tyler Boblit joined Miller as TIU’s lone players receiving Honorable Mention All-MSFA Midwest recognition last year. A total of eight starters return on defense, including all four starters on the defensive line.
LAST MEETING – Iowa Wesleyan won last year’s game but it wasn’t without a fight. Despite outgaining TIU 444-185 for the game and controlling the ball for nearly 37 minutes, the Tigers and Trojans were tied 14-14 at halftime. Trinity International’s defensive line sacked Abihider four times, and the Trojans recovered four IWC turnovers. The Tigers wore down TIU, though, and put the game away when Scott Knipfer hit a 28-yard field goal with 3:30 left to close out the scoring.
Trinity International leads the all-time series between the schools 11-3. Wesleyan’s other two wins in the series came in 1989 and 1999. The Trojans won the last meeting in Mount Pleasant, holding on for a 17-14 win in 2007.
IWC QUICK PREVIEW – The Tigers return 13 starters from last year, including a pair of First Team All-MSFA Midwest players in Maybin and Moore. Junior T.J. Tolliver is taking over the quarterbacking duties this year after backing up Abihider last season. Tolliver completed one of three passes last year and rushed 10 times for 55 yards and two touchdowns. He also played on most Tiger special teams units last year, including punt and kickoff coverage and returns.
Four starters return on the offensive line, while five starters return on defense. Kris Fleming is the only returning starter on the defensive line, while Scott Baldwin leads a linebacking group that returns just one starter but has five players who saw substantial time at the position last year. The secondary returns to key players with safety Darious Watson and cornerback Gerald Knighten, who intercepted four passes last year and was Second Team All-MSFA Midwest. Kicking and punting duties will be handled by redshirt sophomore Josh Feliciano.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS – Two areas where the Tigers hope to be improved this year are on special teams and in the turnover category. Head Coach Jason Smelser said he expects improvement in special teams this year, and the team has put in extra work on the kicking and punting units. IWC also needs to do better in turnover margin, where the team tied for last in the MSFA in 2008 with a -10 margin. Turnovers were a big reason why the team’s improvement in the win column was limited to just three games after a 0-11 season in 2007 and despite being on mostly even ground with opponents in yardage gained last year.
NEWCOMERS EVERYWHERE – Both IWC and TIU brought in large recruiting classes this year. The Tigers have 65 newcomers on the roster, while Trinity International brought in 67 new faces this season.
Only one true freshman is slated to start for Wesleyan, though: Derek Stover, a 6-2, 197 pounder from Warner Robins, Ga., who will line up at outside linebacker. The lack of experience shows more on the second line of the two-deep chart, though, where 16 freshmen are listed. The Trojans have quite a few more freshmen scheduled for heavy action, with eight starters being in their first year. Seventeen more frosh are listed as back-ups on the two-deep.
MSFA UPDATE – The MSFA has had a reshuffling of the deck this season, with several membership changes and some schools switching from the Midwest League to the Mideast. Leaving the conference are Ohio Dominican University and Urbana (Ohio) University, while joining this year are Grand View University and Waldorf. Both Grand View and Waldorf will be in the MSFA Midwest, while Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University joins Trinity International as programs transitioning this year from the Midwest League to the Mideast.
In the preseason poll of league coaches, IWC is projected to finish sixth in the MSFA Midwest. St. Ambrose has again been tabbed as favorites in the Midwest, while St. Francis (Ind.) is the favorite in the Mideast League. Trinity International has been predicted to finish eighth in the Mideast League.
ON THE AIRWAVES – A broadcast of the IWC/TIU game will be available on the Internet via the Trinity International athletics Web site at http://www.tiutrojans.com/f/Listen_Live_Dates.php. Veteran announcer Tom Wuestenfeld will call the action.
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; email@example.com e-mail) or log on to IWC's athletics web site at www.iwc.edu/athletics.
Complete IWC-TIU Media Notes