It’s almost as if McPherson College and Southwestern College are rebooting their football seasons.
The teams return to the gridiron Saturday night after long layoffs for the start of conference play in Winfield.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs are 0-1, having lost to nationally ranked Doane College 54-7, while Southwestern is 0-2, with losses to Wayland Baptist (42-5) and Concordia (31-10). In the latter game, the Moundbuilders were locked in a 10-10 tie when they gave up 21 fourth-quarter points.
Both teams were off last week in preparation for the game, which probably came at a good time for the youthful Bulldogs, who probably had several players who were shellshocked after their first collegiate game since 11 starters were freshmen.
“There were some things that we were able to clean up,” first-year Mac coach Paul Mierkiewicz said of the extra week of practice. “We had some health issues that we were able to get squared away. We’ve got a nine-week stretch going right now where my guess is, from a health standpoint, we’d need a break (later), but that’s the way the schedule is.”
Mierkiewicz and his staff had extra time to break down the Doane game and see what adjustments have to be made.
“As coaches, sometimes as bad as you thought it might be, you watch it on film and maybe it wasn’t as bad, conversely, you also thought you did some things really well and you go back and we didn’t play as well as we thought," Mierkiewicz said. "One, we played a very good football team and they exploited some things that we weren’t prepared to handle. Two, a lot of the stuff we saw on film is fixable.”
Mac and Southwestern may be the two most inexperienced teams in the KCAC as both are fielding almost entirely new starting lineups and both have new head coaches.
“I think both teams are about at even strength in terms of experience,” Mierkiewicz said. “It’s kind of a matter of how we execute, how we deal with adversity in a four-quarter football game. I look at them defensively and they’ve played really good, they had Concordia 10-10 going into the fourth quarter two weeks ago and they play a physical brand of defense and get after you.”
The Builders, however, have been stuck in neutral offensively.
“They have struggled, but they’re close to making some big plays,” Mierkiewicz said. “They’ve got some talented guys and some real speed at wide receiver. They also have an excellent running back. It’s going to be physical game and it’s going to come down to who can establish the line of scrimmage.”
The Bulldogs do welcome back Calon Bibbs, who missed the opener, and he’s one of the KCAC’s best offensive linemen. It also allows some other shuffling to make the offensive line better.
Mac enters the game having had good luck against the Mounbuilders, having won seven times in a row, including last year's 10-7 decision. The last Southwestern win was a 34-21 decision in 2007 at Winfield. Prior to Mac's current streak, Southwestern had won 10 of 12.