MOUNT PLEASANT – After concluding a two-game road stretch as tough as any team in the NAIA will face all season, Iowa Wesleyan College is back home in Mount Pleasant this weekend to face McKendree University at 1 p.m. at Mapleleaf Stadium.
While the Tigers don’t have to take to the road this weekend and won’t be facing a strong NCAA Division I-AA team or a team ranked in the NAIA top 5, the task is still anything but easy. McKendree comes into Saturday’s game ranked nationally in the NAIA, as the Bearcats are tied for 22nd in the most recent NAIA coaches poll.
Wesleyan is looking for improvement this week after a 55-0 loss last Saturday to St. Francis (Ind.), a team ranked fourth in the NAIA. The Tigers followed a similar script to the game the week before against Tennessee-Martin: struggling on offense, staying in the game with solid defense until late in the first half, and then seeing things go downhill just before halftime and in the second half. Jaren Maybin (Sr.-Baltimore, Md.) led the offense with 61 yards rushing while Dominique Richards (Jr.-Bronx, N.Y.) had six tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense.
This week the Tigers will face a McKendree team that has had IWC’s number in the past and traditionally has been a Mid-States Football Association Midwest League power. Other league schools have caught the Bearcats just a little bit the past few years, but McKendree remains one of the top teams in the MSFA and a power in the NAIA. Saturday’s game against McKendree will also be the Tigers’ MSFA Midwest League opener for this season. It also marks the first of two straight games at home, where IWC opened its season with a 29-7 win over Trinity International three weeks ago.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – Though dabbling in the spread offense from time to time, McKendree is known mostly for its traditional Wing-T and is again performing like one of the top teams in the MSFA Midwest. After starting 1-3 last year while running a predominantly spread offense, the Bearcats have won seven of their last nine games since going back to the Wing-T.
After an opening loss to Ottawa (Kan.) this year, McKendree has bounced back with a pair of wins, including a 55-3 win over Olivet Nazarene and a 21-17 win last week over previously ranked Marian (Ind.). Three different players have rushed for at least 100 yards on the season, led by Joe Beimfohr with 255 yards. Beimfohr also rushed for a career-high 129 yards last week against Marian. Sophomore quarterback Austin Fisher has thrown for 421 yards over the first three games, while All-MSFA Midwest tight end Byron Gettis is the main target in the passing game, averaging 18.7 yards per catch.
Defensively, McKendree runs a 4-3 and has particularly excelled at stuffing the run the past two years. This year through three games the Bearcats have allowed just over 50 yards per game on the ground and only 1.8 yards per carry. Opponents have had more success throwing the ball, averaging 226 ypg passing.
SERIES HISTORY – The series against McKendree has not been a good one for IWC. The Bearcats have won all 11 meetings all-time in the series which dates back to 1998. Last year McKendree defeated the Tigers 48-3. Wesleyan scored first as Scott Knipfer set the school record with his 21st career field goal, but the Bearcats scored 21 points in the second quarter on the way to a 27-3 halftime lead.
STEPPING UP – No IWC player has proven to play well in games against the best teams better than Darious Watson (Bellwood, Ill.). Last week the junior safety again led the defense in tackles, finishing with eight tackles, six solo. He also added a pass break-up for good measure. This came a week after leading the team with 12 tackles (10 solo) against NCAA Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin. Last season Watson also led the Tigers in tackles against the two best teams they faced, posting nine tackles (eight solo) against Wisconsin-Stevens Point and then making 12 tackles against St. Ambrose despite playing injured. This season he is leading the Wesleyan defense in tackles with 27 tackles, and his average of 9.0 tackles per game is tied for fifth in the MSFA.
STILL CLIMBING – Despite some tough sledding for the Tiger offense the first few weeks of the season, Maybin continues to climb up the IWC all-time rushing yardage chart. With 176 yards rushing through three games, Maybin is up to 1,356 yards rushing for his career, eighth all-time at the school. He is now 15 yards from passing the person up next on the all-time list, Don Lewis, who ran for 1,370 yards from 1957-59. The senior has a realistic chance of finishing as high as third all-time in rushing at Wesleyan, and if he can finish with at least 709 yards rushing this season he will pass Alan Young (1980-83) for third all-time.
FRESHMEN PLAYING – Freshmen continue to gain significant experience early in the season for IWC. Quarterback Kevin McConnell (Kansas City, Mo.) saw a good chunk of action against St. Francis and passed for 102 yards against the Cougars. Running backs Alvin Williams (Opelousas, La.) and Harrison Ballard (Rockledge, Fla.) combined for seven carries and 42 yards against USF, including Williams breaking off a 32-yard run in the fourth quarter. Ballard, Adam Hocking (Galena, Ill.) and Matthew Vidales (Los Angeles, Calif.) also all caught passes in the game, with McConnell connecting with Ballard for a 38-yard pass in the game.
Defensively, linebacker Derek Stover (Warner Robins, Ga.) had another strong game with seven tackles. Cornerback Nate Washington (Stone Mountain, Ga.) had a season-high five tackles as well as two passes defensed, while Jamal Laing (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Deevonte Browning (Deland, Fla.) and Tarvis Gordon (Sanford, Fla.) had three tackles each in the game.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will be broadcast on KLSG AM 1380 in St. Louis, Mo. An audio Web stream will also be available on the Internet through the McKendree Web site at http://www.athletics.mckendree.edu. McKendree Sports Information Director Scott Cummings will handle the play-by-play.
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.