McPherson College football coach Steve Fox fully anticipated his team being 1-0 after the first week of KCAC play.
The Bulldogs, coming off two encouraging non-conference games albeit losing efforts, were matched last Saturday with Bethel, the virtual lead-pipe-cinch pick to finish in last place in the preseason polls.
But the Bulldogs were beyond abysmal offensively in a shocking 13-0 loss that sent Fox and his staff scrambling back to the drawing board on Sunday.
“We learned from it,” Fox said. “We as a staff sat down all day Sunday and met and watched film on both sides of the ball. We looked at our critical mistakes and really honed in on what we need to do to fix them. On Monday we sat down with the players and emphasized those points.”
The weary Bulldogs, after three road journeys, finally make their home debut Saturday against Kansas Wesleyan, another team picked below them in the preseason. Kickoff at McPherson Stadium is set for 7 p.m. Coverage on 96.7 KBBE-FM starts at 6:30 p.m. with Nick Gosnell, who will later be joined on the call by Steve Sell.
The bad news continued this week for Mac as quarterback JT Levenseller, who had created such an excitement for the team in its narrow loss to highly regarded MidAmerica Nazarene, continued to battle stomach and knee problems and is doubtful. Cody Groff, who lost in his first collegiate start last week, is getting the call again and must find a way to infuse some electricity into an offense that had no juice at all against the Threshers.
Groff threw for just over 100 yards while the running game didn’t produce much more. Fox said ace running back Terrance Jones continues to play courageously as he’s battling the after-effects of his knee surgery. “He’s not 100 percent, but he continues to give it everything he has,” Fox said.
The Bulldogs got the ball only once to burner receiver Ste’fon Walker, who is primarily the only Mac player with some serious speed and the subject of defensive attention. He’s expected to see more balls his way this week.
The Mac defense certainly played well enough to win last week. Silver-platter field position led to the Threshers’ two scores, as Bethel basically did nothing the rest of the game and finished with less than 200 yards.
“I was pleased with their effort,” Fox said. “They just kept encouraging the offense and didn’t turn on them, which has been a problem in the past. They just continued to get the ball back for the offense and the offense’s biggest fan was our defensive players.”
The Mac defense will be severely tested this week. Kansas Wesleyan put up 42 points last week against Southwestern and has been averaging about 100 plays a game. It goes n0-huddle and plays at warp speed, trying to wear down the defense with its frenetic style.
“Coach (Matt) Drinkall is doing a great job,” Fox said. “Offensively they’re running things that’s nothing elaborate, but they’re getting in a lot of formations and are fast paced and no-huddle. It makes your defense real vanilla. You’ve got to be real base and get good at your base stuff. Fortunately that’s our M.O. We’re good at our base stuff. I think the key is how well we are conditioned late in the game.”
Fox said being at home could pump some enthusiasm into his team.
“It’s weird being home,” he chuckled. “It’s going to be nice. It’s the Blake Reed Memorial Game, which brings an extra dimension of emotion to the game. Hopefully that gives us an extra edge.”
• KCAC STANDINGS •
• All Games in Parentheses •
Tabor, 1-0 (3-0)
Bethany, 1-0 (2-1)
Bethel, 1-0 (2-1)
Kansas Wesleyan, 1-0 (1-2)
Sterling, 1-0 (1-2)
Friends, 0-1 (1-2)
Ottawa, 0-1 (1-2)
McPherson College, 0-1 (0-3)
Southwestern, 0-1 (0-3)
Saint Mary, 0-1 (0-3)