Thursday, October 20, 2011

Battle of the Tigers

This will be a quick post, but just wanted to get a few thoughts out there.

This weekend, DWU travels to Crete, Neb., to take on Doane. Both teams (both the Tigers!) are coming off a loss to Morningside. (Doane is technically coming off a bye week, but they last time it played it lost to Morningside). Both teams are trying to avoid dropping any farther -- or falling out of -- the NAIA poll. DWU is 19. Doane is 18. Needless to say, this is a big game.

Stat-wise, it's nearly impossible for the two teams to be any more similar. The biggest, and only of the only, major differences is in pass defense, which could be a plus for our Tigers. Doane is sixth in the league in pass defense and we're first. We're No. 1 in pass offense, they're No. 2. We're No. 1 in total offense and scoring offense, they're No. 3. Our QB is No. 1 in the league, theirs is No. 2. We have three of the league's top receivers, they have two. It goes on and on.

Basically, we're going to have to stop their passing game. Neither team has really established much of a running game so far this season, so it's no secret we're both going to pass, pass and pass again.

A win would be especially huge for the DWU Tigers because we end the season with a handful of tough games. After Doane it's Northwestern, Midland and Nebraska Wesleyan. Doane has Hastings, Concordia and Dordt. We could use some momentum for the last three games of the season. Plus, winning out wouldn't hurt our playoff chances at all.

That's it. Told you this would be a short one. Who ya rootin' for?!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tough to swallow

I know moral victories aren't worth a lot to most coaches... or any coaches, for that matter... but I really, really hope our guys walked away from Saturday's game knowing we're the better team. I know a few did, because I heard one player commenting on his way out of the Wellness Center that he was glad Morningside is the 'best team' in the conference, because they weren't that good.

It's not that the Mustangs weren't good. It's just, well, we were better. We absolutely dominated in the first half. Our defense was fantastic. They had 33 yards of offense at halftime. We had 194. The final stats were about as lopsided; they ended up with 201 to our 413. It was just two crazy plays that gave them the advantage. The first was a punt return that the Morningside guy fumbled, and another Morningside guy happened to be running right by to pick it up and score. Then came the interception. I watched it happen from the top of Joe Quintal. It was one of those plays that as soon as you saw the pass was over Bilyeu's head, you know exactly what was going to happen.

Sure enough, Bilyeu tipped the ball right into the hands of the same Morningside guy who picked up the fumble recovery, and he sprinted to the end zone. If you take those two plays away... we win. Then, you throw in the blocked field goal, a blocked punt, a last-second score, an onside kick ... it was a crazy game. I don't think I took an easy breath the entire game. Especially in the last minute. We score with 23 seconds left on a great pass to Clayton, then recover our own onside kick. I thought for a second we had the chance to win with a hook and ladder play, but Clayton dropped the pass.

What a game. What a great game between two rival schools for first in the league and to try and stay in the top 15 in the NAIA. I'm hoping we don't drop too much when the poll comes out.

This makes this week's game even bigger than it already was. We play Doane, which, along with us and Morningside, is tied for first at 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the GPAC. Looking at stats, we're pretty even with Doane in just about every category. Another perk for us -- they're near the bottom of the league in pass defense and, as you all know, our pass offense is pretty good. They are No. 2 in pass offense, and their quarterback, Anthony Dunn, is pretty prolific. He and Bane are 1-2 in basically every passing category. Should be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Here's hoping that close game showed us we can play with anyone in the league. Who ya rootin' for?!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The big one

Well, folks, it is upon us. The football team's biggest test of the season thus far. I would venture to say that coaches and players have been looking at this game since the start of the season, as Morningside was picked to win the GPAC. And now it's finally here. Not only a top-15 showdown, but also a fight for the top of the conference. If DWU wins, they stay undefeated (obviously) and keep hold of first. If Morningside wins, there's a three-way tie for first with those two and Doane, which has a bye after picked up its first loss of the year to Morningside last week.

Should be a good game. Morningside is No. 8, we're No. 13. And it will be interesting to see where we stack up against the Mustangs. We've played the lower half of the conference to get to this point, and Morning has played some of the league's best. It beat Northwestern, Doane and Midland, and its lone conference loss was a 30-23 upset by Nebraska Wesleyan. The Mustangs beat Doane pretty handily, 31-16, but beat Midland by a point and Northwestern 21-10.

Stat-wise, the Tigers look pretty dominant on paper. DWU is at or near the top of the league in nearly every category, while the Mustangs are in the middle of the pack at best. But, again, Morningside has played some of the league's best, and the Tigers have had their way with most of their opponents thus far. One stat that really stands out to me is the Mustangs' pass defense -- they are ninth in the GPAC and giving up 232 yards per game through the air. That's good news for DWU, whose pass offense is absolutely dominating the league individually and team-wise.

Morningside has two young quarterbacks that shouldn't be taken lightly, including a freshman who came off the bench to throw for three touchdowns last week against Doane. We, however, counter that with a sophomore who has a strong arm and has made some excellent passes this season. We also have three receivers who are the best in the league. And one of those 'receivers' actually doubles as the league's best running back, so take that, Morningside!

For real, though -- it will be fun to see what we can do against this team. They don't seem to be the high-powered team they used to be, although they're still pretty darn good. We haven't beaten Morningside since 2002... in fact, we've lost pretty badly to them most years since, so hopefully there's no mental block going into the game.

I know it's pheasant opener tomorrow, but here's hoping we see all kinds of blaze orange intermixed with the blue and white cheering for the Tigers.

Other notes

In other news... the DWU men's soccer team picked up its second win of the year against a team receiving votes in the NAIA this past week. The Tigers upset Dordt College 2-1 in double overtime thanks to a free kick by Hugo Gonzalez that slipped past Dordt's keeper. Another huge win for this team, which continues to impress. The Tigers are 4-2 in the league and in second place.

Holy women's golf team. The Tigers were a stroke behind Morningside after the first GPAC qualifier of the season, but won the second by 25 strokes to pull ahead by 24 in the overall standings. Twenty-five strokes! That's huge. Dani Bellet is in the individual lead by seven shots, and Jenna Winckler is second. Should be a fun spring season for the girls!

That's all for today. Hope to see everyone at Quintal tomorrow afternoon. Who ya rootin' for?!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A 'W' is a 'W'...

Well... wow. I hate to be too hard on the guys on the day of a homecoming win but... we practically tried to give that game away to Hastings. Gift wrapped and tied with a pretty bow.

We dominated the first half. Dominated. Had 250-some odd yards of offense, moved the ball pretty freely, held them to 83 yards of offense. Their rushing game had negative yards at halftime, I'm pretty sure.

Then came the second half.

Then we looked like a team who couldn't do anything. We looked tired. We looked lost. We couldn't run. We couldn't throw. Protect the quarterback. We had 17 total yards of offense in the second half. Seven.Teen. Hastings had almost 200.

DWU had some big second-half plays. An interception, a fumble recovery. Jesse Holz had a HUGE pass breakup on 4th-and-7 on the DWU 6 in the final minutes of the game to give DWU the ball back. But it was seriously nerve-wracking to watch.

Give the Broncos credit; after that first half they didn't give up. It seemed like it woke their quarterback up, actually. And their defensive line was awesome; Bane was scrambling on every play, it seemed like. At one point, the Bronco D sacked Bane for a loss of 15 yards, back to the Tiger 4-yard line. Yikes.

A few people got a little banged up... Aaron Rolen went down, and Muilenburg had to be helped off after a big hit. Dordt next week, then we have to get ready for Morningside.

On a lighter note... DWU is 4-0 for the first time since joining the GPAC, and (I think) for the first time since its undefeated season in 1992. Let's see how long we can keep this going.
Who ya rootin' for?!