MOUNT PLEASANT – Iowa Wesleyan College will look to recreate a little Saturday night magic and get back on the winning track when it hosts the University of St. Francis (Ill.) in a Mid-States Football Association Midwest League contest at 6 p.m. Saturday night at Mapleleaf Stadium.
The Tigers have put together some of their best performances and have also had some of their best home crowds the past two seasons under the lights. IWC is 2-1 at home in night games the past two years and has averaged better than 1,200 fans in those games. Included in those games was a 29-7 win to open this season against Trinity International, in which more than 1,500 were on hand to watch at Mapleleaf.
Wesleyan will gladly take the shot in the arm of another night game after a brutal three-game stretch that has left the team searching to regain its form from that opener. In its last three games IWC lost to NCAA Division I-AA Tennessee-Martin and a pair of nationally ranked NAIA schools, including a 40-0 loss to McKendree last week, a team now ranked 16th in the nation. The Tigers got off to a bumpy start against the Bearcats, trailing 14-0 after one quarter, and turned the ball over five times in their third straight loss.
IWC now appears to be facing a stretch of more manageable games, starting Saturday against St. Francis (Ill.). After a breakthrough season last year that included a 7-4 record, its first winning season in 17 years, St. Francis has had a rough start to this year. The Fighting Saints have lost their first four games, three of them at home. USF opened with a tough loss to Marian (Ind.) but has since lost three straight games in rather convincing fashion. Last week St. Francis lost to Taylor (Ind.) University 38-23 in the Saints’ Homecoming game.
THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT – For the most part, offense has not been a problem for St. Francis. Employing an I-Formation attack that includes some use of the “Pistol” formation, the Saints rank seventh overall in the MSFA in total offense, including fifth in passing offense. Quarterback John Goolsby has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns in the team’s first four games. USF has hit on its share of big plays but has struggled some running the ball, averaging 94.5 yards per game to rank next-to-last in the conference.
Defensive has been a challenge for the Fighting Saints, who describe their base formation as an Attack 3-4. St. Francis is 14th in the MSFA in total defense, allowing over 400 yards per game. The Saints are 10th in the league in passing defense and 14th in rushing defense, allowing nearly 200 yards per game through the air and more than 200 yards per game on the ground. Opponents are averaging 37 points per game against USF and are converting 45% of their third-down plays against the Saints.
SERIES HISTORY – St. Francis has won the last three meetings in the series between the teams to take an 8-4 lead all-time. The Saints won last year’s game 31-13 in Joliet, scoring 28 points in the first half and then limiting the Tigers to 90 yards of total offense in the second half. IWC last defeated USF in 2005, when the Tigers defeated the Fighting Saints 37-16. Mickell Harrell rushed for 94 yards in that game, Aaron Rozanski passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Jeremy Walker caught two touchdown passes.
FIRST START – After a rough beginning last week, freshman Kevin McConnell (Kansas City, Mo.) came on and had a productive first game as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. McConnell completed just two of his first six passes and was sacked three times as IWC fell behind early. He bounced back nicely from that early trial by fire, though, in one stretch completing 17 of 19 passes. He finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 93 yards. McConnell even would’ve had his first collegiate touchdown pass in the fourth quarter if not for a penalty. He and Lawrence Moore (Jr.-Country Club Hills, Ill.) connected on a 13-yard score early in the fourth quarter, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. McConnell is scheduled to start again this week in place of T.J. Tolliver (Jr.-Bellwood, Ill.), who continues to be sidelined with a knee injury.
COACHING FOR A CAUSE – A number of injuries have hit the Tigers early in the season. One of the latest came on the opening kickoff last week against McKendree, as kicker/punter Josh Feliciano (Jr.-San Diego, Calif.) was injured on the approach to the open the game. A pulled muscle resulted in his kick essentially becoming an accidental onsides kick, McKendree recovered at the IWC 43-yard line and started the game with super field position. Senior linebacker Scott Baldwin (Penn Valley, Calif.) was forced into action as the team’s kicker and punter in the game and averaged 33 yards per punt with a long of 39 yards. He also had his first-ever collegiate field goal attempt in the fourth quarter but missed from 32 yards out.
MAKE THEM EARN IT – On that note, one thing the Tigers will need to do better this week will be to win the field position battle. Including the opening drive in which McKendree needed to go just 43 yards to score, five of the Bearcats’ six scoring drives were 46 yards or less. In all this season opponents have had eight touchdown drives of 50 yards or less, to go with two defensive or special teams returns for touchdowns.
COACHING FOR A CAUSE – IWC coaches tonight are participating in the nationwide Coach To Cure MD initiative sponsored by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and supported by the American Football Coaches Association. Coaches are wearing a patch on their left arm to support of the AFCA’s working to raise awareness and research funding to cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood. Thousands of coaches across the country are participating in the program this weekend.
ON THE AIRWAVES – Saturday’s game will be broadcast back to the USF campus on WCSF 88.7 FM in Joliet, Ill. An audio Web stream will also be available on the Internet through the St. Francis Web site at http://www.stfrancis.edu/content/theedge/stream/index.html. St. Francis Athletic Director Dave Laketa 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.
IWC-USF Complete Game Notes