MOUNT PLEASANT – Following a successful debut to the 2009 season, the Iowa Wesleyan College football team will find the going much tougher for its second game of the year, as the Tigers will take on the University of Tennessee-Martin on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hardy Graham Stadium.
The Tigers are coming off a season-opening 29-7 win over Trinity International University in which the defense dominated and the offense delivered an efficient performance under new quarterback T.J. Tolliver. The Wesleyan ‘D’ held the Trojans to just 130 yards of offense, 85 of which came on TIU’s final drive when it scored its touchdown in the final minute. Offensively, the Tigers displayed a balanced attack that included Tolliver’s passing for 163 yards and Jaren Maybin rushing for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
It was an all-around great night for IWC, as the special teams also played a big role in the game. Josh Feliciano kicked two field goals, made all three of his PAT attempts, buried two punts inside the 20-yard line and even ran a fake punt for 20 yards and a first down. And it all happened in front of a big crowd, as better than 1,500 watched at Mapleleaf Stadium for the opener.
The Tigers will need all of the momentum built up from the first game because this week they step up a level in class. IWC will face UT-Martin, a member of NCAA Division I-AA (known now as the Football Championship Subdivision) and a very good one at that. The Skyhawks finished 8-4 last year, just missing out on the FBS playoffs. UTM also played very tough against Auburn of the powerful Southeastern Conference, hanging with the Tigers much of the way and losing 37-20.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – Tennessee-Martin has been one of the great turnaround success stories in I-AA/FCS the past several years. Once a program that lost 89 of 101 games from 1996-2004 as it struggled greatly in I-AA and in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Skyhawks won six games in 2005 under former coach Matt Griffin and have stepped it up even more under Head Coach Jason Simpson. Simpson has a 21-13 record in his first three years at UTM and took the Skyhawks to the I-AA playoffs in 2006 in his first year.
The Skyhawks feature a high-scoring pro-style offense that averaged over 37 points a game last year. UTM also returns the OVC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in senior quarterback Cade Thompson, as well as 6-foot-2 inch wide receiver Mike Hicks, who caught 12 passes for 132 yards in the game last year against Auburn. Defensively, Tennessee-Martin goes with a 4-4 front that includes a rover in place of a traditional strong safety. The defense returns its leading tackler in Josh Bey, a junior who had 16 1/2 tackles for loss last season. The Skyhawks will be breaking in a number of new starters on defense, as eight starters departed from last year’s team.
FIRST MEETING – Iowa Wesleyan and Tennessee-Martin are meeting for the first time ever on the gridiron. In fact, it is just IWC’s second game ever against one of the teams that currently make up the Ohio Valley Conference. On Oct. 7, 1967, the Tigers played at Murray State, losing to the Racers 71-12.
Wesleyan is playing a I-AA/FCS team for the first time since 2005, when the Tigers took on Western Illinois and lost to the Leathernecks 70-7. IWC has never beaten a member of I-AA/FCS. Its last win over a school that is currently a member of the FCS came when the Tigers defeated WIU 6-0 on Oct. 2, 1937. In fact, the school’s only wins over such opponents have all come against the Leathernecks, as Iowa Wesleyan defeated Western four times in the 1930s, back when it was known as Macomb Teachers College.
STAR DEBUTS – IWC got several big performances from players in their first games with the Tigers. Feliciano was the most noticeable of the newcomers, and for his efforts he was named Mid-States Football Association Midwest League Special Teams Player of the Week. A number of defensive players also played big roles against Trinity International. True freshman linebacker Derek Stover had five tackles against TIU, while redshirt freshman safety Charles Thomas had four tackles. Two more true freshmen, Nate Washington and Eduardo Garcia, added three tackles each, and freshman defensive back Deevonte Browning also had a pass break-up in the third quarter.
NEAR-RECORD PERFORMANCE? – Up until the final drive of the game, the IWC defense had allowed just 45 yards of total offense. No official records are available for the least yards allowed by a Tiger defense in school history, but the 130 yards allowed was the fewest by an opponent since Peru State gained just 89 yards in a 24-0 Wesleyan win on Oct. 30, 1993. Going back several years, William Penn gained just 85 yards total offense in a 21-9 Tiger win on Sept. 10, 1983.
MOVING UP RECORD BOOKS – Wide receiver Lawrence Moore caught eight passes for 61 yards and a touchdown against Trinity International and began what IWC hopes is a season-long ascent up the Tigers’ all-time receiving list. Against TIU, Moore moved up from 11th to 9th all-time in receiving yards and now has 1,149 yards receiving in his career. The junior passed Dereck Hall (1989-90, 1,097 yards) and Mark Peterson (1985-87, 1,129 yards) last week. Next up on the all-time list is Chris Oepping, who had 1,449 yards receiving from 1991-94. If Moore can duplicate his 1,000+ yards receiving from 2008, he will be on track to becoming IWC’s all-time leader in receiving yardage. Marcus Washington is the school record holder for receiving yards with 2,196 yards receiving from 1989-91.
ON THE AIRWAVES...AN IWC FIRST – A Webcast of the IWC/UTM game including video will be available on the Internet on a pay-per-view basis via the Ohio Valley Conference Web site at http://www.ovcsports.tv.
Also, the IWC/UT-Martin game will represent a first for Iowa Wesleyan College, as the game will be broadcast online via the IWC Web site. The game will be the first-ever broadcast of a Tiger sporting event online and produced by the College and will be available to listen to at http://www.iwc.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&layout=division-landing&id=887, or by clicking on the IWC Media Club page on the site. IWC Sports Information Director Adam Glatczak will handle the play-by-play for the game.
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.
Complete IWC-UTM Game Notes