Amazing what a first victory of the season can do for you.
McPherson College’s emotions went from the lowest of lows with an abysmal road effort against Bethel two weeks ago to the highest of highs with the uplifting comeback here against Kansas Wesleyan last week that resulted in a 30-24 victory, the first of 2014 and first in the Steve Fox era.
As much as the Bulldogs are patting themselves on the back for a job well done, Fox said the team must now get its feet back on the ground and put that victory behind them.
“As coaches, we focused on not letting contentment set in,” Fox said. “We kind of have a 24-hour rule, even with a loss, you suffer the loss or celebrate the win. Come Monday morning, we’re back to work with the next opponent. As coaches we focused on that and not on the win.”
The Bulldogs complete the exhausting start to the season Saturday night when they make their third very long trip of the year, this time to Ottawa. The 6 p.m. away game is the fourth in five weeks for the road-weary Bulldogs.
Join Nick Gosnell for the pre-game show on 96.7 KBBE-FM at 5:30 and he'll be joined on the game call by Steve Sell.
Things in the KCAC will begin to sort themselves out this week. Tabor is alone at the top at 2-0 and Southwestern is likewise at the bottom at 0-2. And those two teams meet this week.
That means the gaggle of eight teams bunched at 1-1 will be matched, with four moving to 2-1 in the KCAC and four dropping to 1-2.
The Bulldogs certainly have no bargain with the 23rd-ranked Braves. At the same time though, Mac has to be encouraged by the Braves’ struggles last week with Bethel in a 38-31 win. The Threshers pushed the Braves’ defense around for 511 yards, but three turnovers kept them from pulling off the upset.
The Mac defense, which played a sensational game against a potent Kansas Wesleyan offense despite the yards and points it allowed, will again be put to the test. Ottawa has arguably the KCAC’s premier running back in the monstrous (240-pound) Luke Lundy and an effective game manager in quarterback Michael Behr, who had a huge game last year against the Bulldogs.
“They are just so balanced,” Fox said. “They are very well coached (by former Bethany All-American Kent Kessinger). They are so patient in their running game that it gives you fits. We’ve got to corral Lundy and Behr is very efficient. They also have a talented receiver in that (Joshua) Stangby.”
Fox is hoping his team’s offense can follow the same formula as last week. Cody Groff is going to make his third start and each one has been better than the last. JT Levenseller’s illness actually has improved, but a sprained knee is keeping him out. Starting running back Terrance Jones also is doubtful, but the Bulldogs found a star last week in freshman Miles Balthazor, as the former Valley Center Hornet pounded out 116 yards on 25 carries and scored twice. The offensive line really picked up the pace and should be excited about going up a defense that gave up more than half a grand of yards last week.
Fox said it would be important, though, to be able to pass the ball effectively. He knows that Ste'fon Walker needs more touches since he’s the Bulldogs’ most explosive player. He was used more as a decoy on jet sweeps last week, but they would like to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.
The Mac defense will be led by Trent Forrester, who was the KCAC Player of the Week for his 24-tackle performance, but inexplicably did not win National Player of the Week. He certainly had a performance to remember, while Ashton Serpas and Jimmy Wilson also came up big, while Kavoderic McIntyre and Trea Lott had crucial fourth-quarter interceptions.
• KCAC STANDINGS •
• All Games in Parentheses •
Tabor, 2-0 (4-0)
Bethany, 1-1 (2-2)
Bethel, 1-1 (2-2)
Friends, 1-1 (2-2)
Ottawa, 1-1 (2-2)
McPherson College, 1-1 (1-3)
Kansas Wesleyan, 1-1 (1-3)
Saint Mary, 1-1, (1-3)
Sterling, 1-1 (1-3)
Southwestern, 0-2, (0-4)
• Saturday's Games •
McPherson College at Ottawa
Bethany at Sterling
Tabor at Southwestern
Kansas Wesleyan at Friends
Bethel at Saint Mary