When McPherson College football coach Steve Fox had a chance to survey the carnage from last Saturday’s 45-17 loss to Friends, it wasn’t a pretty sight.
The Bulldogs, who host Saint Mary at 6 p.m. Saturday in the annual homecoming game, will be without starting quarterback Cody Groff for at least three weeks, joining former starter JT Levenseller, who has been out since Week 2. Starting running backs Terrance Jones and Miles Balthazor are doubtful and star linebacker and All-American candidate Trent Forrester is a game-time decision, though odds aren’t in his favor.
Fox hopes to have enough healthy bodies for the Bulldogs to be competitive, as a lack of depth is battering his team into submission.
It’s so bad that wide receiver Kelly Cordova is the Bulldogs’ backup quarterback to Jordan Hoffman, who will make his first start since the season-opening loss to Bacone. Hoffman threw for more than 2,000 yards last year, but has played in just two games this year.
“They’ve been splitting reps all week,” Fox said. “Kelly is pretty special.”
But he’s also a top receiver, one area Mac is strong at. With Michael Ramos, Andrew Johnston and Ste’fon Walker all shining at times this year, it’s the one area of strength for the Bulldogs.
Dalton Whitfield, who has been starting at linebacker, could fill in at running back. He was a big-time high school standout at that position and last week showed he can punt as well with a couple of boomers as he filled in for Forrester. Blocking back Tyler Stone was impressive in his quarter of play last week with 52 yards, so he'll get some carries as well.
Saint Mary comes in 2-2 in the KCAC, the big win coming against Bethany on the road, 43-19. The other success was against Bethel.
“They like to throw the ball and they’re good at it,” said Fox, whose secondary has been scorched the last two weeks. “Now they’re back to what they were two years ago because they can run the ball. We have to be solid and we have to be gap-sound in the front and that takes away from our coverage in the back.”
Fox admits these are times that try a team’s resolve, as the Bulldogs try to keep the season from spiraling out of control.
“Not to make excuses, but our youth is showing,” Fox said. “Some of these guys have never lost. We’ve got guys who didn’t lose five games in their high school careers. So this is a new thing for them. There’s a learning curve on life. We’ve fought some battles this week and we had a team meeting and talked about a lot of things. We’ve had a good week of practice though.”
• KCAC STANDINGS •
Tabor, 3-1 (5-1)
Friends, 3-1 (4-2)
Ottawa, 3-1 (4-2)
Sterling, 3-1 (3-3)
Bethany, 2-2 (3-3)
Saint Mary, 2-2 (2-4)
McPherson College, 1-3 (1-5)
Southwestern, 1-3 (1-5)
Bethel, 1-3 (1-5)
Kansas Wesleyan, 1-3 (1-5)
• SATURDAY’S GAMES •
Saint Mary at McPherson College
Bethany at Kansas Wesleyan
Sterling at Ottawa
Southwestern at Bethel
Friends at Tabor