Bulldogs seeking first football victory Saturday

By Steve Sell
September 12, 2014

The shoe is on the other foot this week for McPherson College's football team.

The Bulldogs began their season last week with a 24-7 loss to Bacone College, which entered the contest with a game already under its belt.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs make another long road trip to Olathe to take on MidAmerica Nazarene, which is in the same position as Mac was last week as this will be its first game.

This is part of the second-and-final KCAC-Heart of America Challenge. Last year the conferences split the 10 games, with Mac doing its part by routing Graceland, 34-0. MidAmerica was matched against Tabor and dropped a 21-13 verdict.

The Bulldogs are returning to the scene of history, as Olathe was the site of Mac’s first-ever national playoff game. The teams met in 2009 in the first round when the Pioneers rallied to defeat the Bulldogs 40-24, scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for the deceiving victory.

But a lot has changed since then. McPherson College is on its third coach, while MidAmerica is unveiling Brian Willmer for the first time Saturday, as he replaced Jonathan Quinn after last season.

So there will be a lot of unknowns when the teams tee it up at 6 p.m. Join Nick Gosnell for the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. on 96.7 KBBB-FM and then he'll have the call, with Steve Sell providing analysis.

“I hope it (MidAmerica having not played a game) plays into our favor this time,” first-year McPherson College coach Steve Fox said. “Hopefully we got the first-week wrinkles ironed out and I hope they have those wrinkles.”

Fox offered to swap practice film with Willmer so both teams would have something to prepare for, but was denied the request. So the Bulldogs have to be prepared for anything, while the Pioneers have a road map to follow since Mac played last week.

“We are going into this blind,” Fox said. “We know his (Willmer) roots are from Azusa Pacific and his offensive coordinator was a head high school football coach in California at a private Christian school. So there’s no college football footprints to trace back to.”

MidAmerica was for years a power under Quinn — a former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback —  but fell back last year to 5-5. Willmer takes over and he's known more for defense, having been Azusa’s defensive coordinator for eight years. However, it’s unknown just how talented a team he has, though from all indications he’ll be playing a four-wide, one-back offense and a 4-3 defense.

“You go into any Saturday, you’ve got to be you and execute to perfection,” Fox said, noting the Bulldogs must take care of themselves first and do what they do best. “You’ve got to adjust as the game unfolds.”

The Bulldogs’ defense played well for three quarters last week, holding Bacone to just seven points. But it collapsed in the fourth quarter under the weight of an ineffective offense, which didn’t even produce 200 total yards. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over five times, four via the interception. Fox is hoping for a much better week of execution, but has made no changes in personnel.

“When the running game was clicking, it was really good,” Fox said. “When they load the box against the run, we’ve got to be able to take advantage.”

Jordan Hoffman, who threw for more than 2,000 yards last year, was just 7 of 27 and was picked off four times. Fox said he needs a return to the form that enabled him at times to be among the better quarterbacks in the KCAC.