MITCHELL, S.D. – Each of the past two seasons, the Dakota Wesleyan University football team has won at least three games to start the season. Saturday afternoon, the Tigers try for their third straight 3-0 start in the past three years.
Dakota Wesleyan – which is 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference – hosts Briar Cliff University at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, at Joe Quintal Field. Saturday marks the first home conference game of the year for the Tigers, who made their 2012 debut in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches’ Poll Monday at No. 22.
The Tigers made it to 2-0 last week thanks to a big play late in a 26-23 win against Concordia University in Seward, Neb. Josh Thompson intercepted a pass from Bulldog quarterback Von Thomas in the end zone with 21 seconds left on the clock to help seal the Tigers win. The interception was one of four DWU made last week; senior defensive back Dustin Bergmeier recorded the other three, tying the school record for interceptions in a game, and was named the GPAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week.
Standing between DWU and a 3-0 record is a Briar Cliff team that is 0-2 so far this season – including 0-1 in the GPAC – but that has shown glimpses of improvement. The Chargers had a chance to tie the game late last week against Graceland, but BCU got inside the 20-yard line and was unable to score with less than a minute to play.
The Chargers are currently ranked fourth in the league in pass defense, giving up 175 yards per game. Briar Cliff is also fourth in the GPAC in pass offense, but quarterback Kyle Van Egdom – who is fifth in the league in passing at 200 yards per game – isn’t expected to play this week. Instead, PJ Quiroga is slated to start with Angel Andres second on the depth chart. Quiroga has seen playing time in two games and is 9-for-22 for 106 yards.
Dakota Wesleyan is hoping quarterback Jon Bane and his corps of receivers can get past the Charger defense, and also to make good use of senior running back Josh Endres. Thanks in large part to Endres, the Tigers have the third-best rush offense in the league (214.5), and the Ethan, S.D., native leads the GPAC – and the NAIA – in rushing per game (189.5) and all-purpose yards per game (197). He also leads the GPAC and is second in the nation in total rushing (379) and scoring (15). The next closest running back in the league is BCU’s Jared Williams, who has 197 yards in two games played this season.
DWU’s air attack hasn’t been silent either so far this season. Bane is 35-for-58 for 450 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore Arthur Brown and junior Michael Brown have been Bane’s favorite receivers, combining for 272 yards and four touchdowns in 21 catches.
DWU’s defense has earned plenty of recognition early this year, with both Bergmeier and linebacker Anthony Cervantes earning GPAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week awards. DWU has the fourth-best rush defense (87.5) in the league and is eighth in pass defense (241). After the first two games of his collegiate career, linebacker Brady Bonte seems to be finding his niche with the Tiger defense. He leads the team with 14 tackles, including eight solo tackles. He also has 3.5 tackles for a loss. Jeff Maassen is second with 10.5 tackles and Cervantes has 10 tackles, including five for a loss, to go with 1.5 sacks and an interception.
For those that can’t be at Joe Quintal Field Saturday, the game can be heard live locally at 105.9 FM or online at www.kmit.com. There will also be a live webcast available at www.ustream.tv/discovery/live/all?q=DWUAthletics.