KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Two teams looking to start September on a winning note will square off this Saturday, September 1 as Graceland hosts Culver-Stockton in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Game of the Week.
The Matchup: Culver-Stockton (0-0) at Graceland (0-1), Huntsman Field, Lamoni, Iowa, 2:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Graceland leads, 35-16-1
Last Meeting: Culver-Stockton 35, Graceland 10 (Sept. 3, 2011 - Canton, Mo.)
Last Time Out: Culver-Stockton - season opener; Graceland - lost to #15 Grand View (Iowa), 26-6
About the Wildcats: Culver-Stockton begins its 103rd season of competition with 2nd-year head coach Jeff Duvendeck looking to continue moving forward after a difficult 2011 season. The Wildcats started out on the right track, claiming a victory over Graceland in the season opener. However, C-SC dropped the next 10 games and was unable to match the season-opening output of 35 points in any of those games. Turnovers were an achilles heel for the Wildcats as they committed 47 giveaways that led to a school-record 534 points allowed. The Wildcats have lost 8-straight road games dating back to 2010, but their last triumph away from home was in Lamoni, a 38-33 victory that snapped a 32-game losing streak overall. Redshirt freshman Jake Hoffman has won the quarterback battle in camp and will start the game under center after sitting out last season and missing most of the spring due to injury. Hoffman won't be the only freshman expected to start as 12 of the 22 players listed on the Wildcats' two-deep are either redshirt or true freshmen. The defense won't have much more experience as 14 of 22 players on that side of the two-deep are either freshmen or sophomores. The defense will lean heavily on LB Josh McEwen and DB Drew Bolhuis to help settle in. The most experience player on the team is K Michael Camargo, who has connected on 19-of-28 career field goals.
About the Yellowjackets: Graceland was another team that struggled with turnovers in 2011, coughing up the ball 45 times in 10 games. The 2012 season opener was a huge step toward turning that trend around as the Yellowjackets had just one turnover and forced four in a 26-6 loss to #15 Grand View. However, the offense could only manage a pair of field goals and was 8-of-22 on third downs. Junior QB Matt Fink threw for 161 yards against the Vikings, but needs to improve upon a 18-of-38 completion percentage of .473. Fink has found an early favorite target in Raysean Brown, who snagged 8 receptions for 64 yards and will be a weapon on special teams as well. He and Terrence Wells will be relied upon to create big plays both on offense and special teams. LB Johnny Carrasco, a transfer from Truman State, had a fine debut game for head coach Jeff Douglas, leading the team with 13 tackles while DE Reggie Ramey had eight solo tackles among his 11 total stops. Dorian Smith had two of the three interceptions for the Yellowjackets last week, giving him six for his career. A youthful Graceland defense that has seven projected starters in just their first or second collegiate seasons yielded a respectable 333 total yards last week, improving upon its per-game average of last season by over 30 yards. The Yellowjackets will need to be more efficient in the red zone after collecting just one field goal in three second half trips last week.
Extra Points: With a win in his first game as head coach last season, Jeff Duvendeck became the fourth-straight C-SC coach to win his debut contest ... Graceland is 28-11 all-time in home openers, including a 18-13 win over Culver-Stockton to kick off the 1978 campaign ... With back-to-back wins over Graceland, Culver-Stockton is looking for its first three-game winning streak over the Yellowjackets, where it is just 5-20-1 in Lamoni ... Graceland had won 7-straight contests between the two teams from 2003-09 prior to the current two-game streak for the Wildcats ... Graceland head coach Jeff Douglas returned to coach at his alma mater for a second time after earning all-America recognition as a senior when he finished second in the nation in interceptions ... Jeff Duvendeck owns a national championship ring, working on the staff at Grand Valley State in 2002 with current Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on the NCAA Division II national championship team.
Week Two Capsules
#18 Baker (1-0) at Peru State (1-0), Oak Bowl, Peru, Neb., 1:00 p.m.
Last season: Baker 55, Peru State 12 (Sept. 3, 2011 - Baldwin City, Kan.)
About the Wildcats: The celebrations that were sparked by a 14-point defensive outburst to break a 13-13 tie and give Baker a 27-20 win over #11 Ottawa last week were tempered by the news that QB Jake Morse was likely lost for the season with a left knee injury. Senior Sam Vossner came in and kept the Wildcats on track, throwing for 129 yards and a touchdown while the defense did the rest, allowing just 83 yards in the second half before a late touchdown drive when Baker was in a prevent defense. All-HAAC LB Emmerson Clarke scored both touchdowns on his way to being named the HAAC Defensive Player of the Week, falling on a fumble in the end zone before returning an interception 48 yards for a score. Highly-touted transfer RB Dillon Baxter rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries as he works his way into game shape. The Wildcats may have also found a weapon in K Steven Stewart, a three-sport standout who nailed field goals of 22 and 44 yards in impressive fashion.
About the Bobcats: Head coach Steve Schneider no doubt opened some eyes around the conference after his team rushed for 423 yards in a 35-27 win at Dakota State (S.D.) last Saturday. Ryan Ludlow carried 14 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns while Bo Shepard tallied 129 yards on 12 rushes and two TDs of his own. Shepard was just 4-of-12 throwing, but did hit Tyler Audsley on a 40-yard scoring strike to highlight his first start. All-HAAC LB Preston Bruss picked up where he left off last season, leading the Bobcats with 10 tackles, including three for loss, and will have another busy afternoon against a Baker running game that should be relied upon even more with its star signal-caller sidelined. The Bobcats will want to improve on third downs as they were just 1-of-10 against Dakota State, but have to be pleased with a defense that allowed less than three yards per rush.
#5 MidAmerica Nazarene (0-0) at Central Methodist (0-0), Davis Field, Fayette, Mo., 6:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: MNU leads, 28-3
Last season: MNU 24, Central Methodist 0 (Sept. 3, 2011 - Olathe, Kan.)
About the Pioneers: Expectations will once again be high for head coach Jonathan Quinn, who begins his fourth season with a career record of 32-5. The Pioneers return plenty of firepower on both sides of the ball, including all-HAAC QB Sean Ransburg, who rushed for 430 yards and eight touchdowns while also throwing for 904 and seven scores in seven games. He will be glad to have RB Greg Gates back, who rushed for 389 yards before suffering a knee injury in the fourth game of the season. Ransburg also will have back reliable wideouts Brett Houchen and Branden Phillips, who combined for 73 catches, 796 yards and 8 TDs last season. All-HAAC DB Dantren Anderson anchors a defense that returns six starters and also welcomes back JD Wood, who missed all of last season due to injury. The defense returns four of its top six tacklers from a year ago and could be the best unit Quinn has had in his tenure on that side of the ball.
About the Eagles: New head coach Jody Ford is no stranger to the Central Methodist program and will have plenty of returning talent to build around this season. The offense will once again rely heavily on four-year starter Bryant Jackson, who should pass over 6,000 total yards in the game for his career. The Eagles will continue to run the flexbone offense, anchored by bruising RB Burton Iosefa, who rushed for 667 yards last season. Despite averaging just under 12 passing attempts per game last season, Jackson threw for nine touchdowns and the passing game still must be respected. The defense finished in the middle of the HAAC statistical tables last season in total defense and rushing defense, but were second to just MNU in sacks per game (2.9) and returns DE Trevor Robinson up front after tallying 11.0 sacks and 15.5 total tackles for loss a year ago. Bryan Plenge will lead the secondary after recording 33 tackles last season.
Sterling (Kan.) (0-0) at #13 Benedictine (1-0), Larry Wilcox Stadium, Atchison, Kan., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Benedictine leads, 3-1
Last season: Benedictine 14, Sterling 0 (Sept. 3, 2011 - Sterling, Kan.)
About the Warriors: The Warriors were just 1-10 last season (including three forfeits), coming up on the losing end of a 14-0 home decision to the Ravens last September. Sterling had a strong defensive unit in 2011, allowing just 17.8 points per game and finishing 5th in the NAIA in passing yards allowed (142.8). The Warriors do have to replace all four members of the secondary and will rely on transfer Cedrique Smith, the 2012 110m hurdle champion at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with Azusa Pacific (Calif.). Senior LB Brian Noller was a preseason all-KCAC selection after leading the team with 76 tackles last season and will have his hands full against a physical Benedictine front line. The offense struggled mightily at times a season ago, averaging just 215.5 total yards and scoring 18 touchdowns. Head coach Andy Lambert will turn to sophomore QB John Cardona, a dual-threat option who should provide some more play-making ability.
About the Ravens: Benedictine started the 2012 season with a 45-37 win over Concordia (Neb.) last week, but there were plenty of areas for head coach Larry Wilcox to address this week in practice. The Ravens committed 14 penalties and allowed a late punt return for touchdown, the type of mental mistakes that could prove costly later in the season. The offense looked to be in midseason form with almost a 50-50 balance (207 rushing, 200 passing) with Cameron Fore rushing for 102 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Senior TE Alex Boyd had a career day with 8 catches for 100 yards as the leading receiver. Bill Noonan was excellent under center for the Ravens, completing 16-of-21 for 188 yards and one TD with one interception. The defense did not force a turnover for just the second time in the last two-plus seasons, but allowed just 295 total yards and limited Concordia to just 15-of-33 passing for 157 yards. A veteran linebacking corps was led by Andrew Jones (7 tackles) and Ray Gragg (6 tackles).
Avila (0-0) at Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) (0-0), Lindenwood Stadium, Belleville, Ill., 1:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: First meeting
About the Eagles: It's difficult to prepare for a team that has never played an intercollegiate game, but that might also have been a blessing for head coach Justin Berna as his team could focus on sharpening its own edges heading into the 2012 season. After opening last season 0-5 and being outscored 187-40, the Eagles won four of their final five games to give momentum to the program heading into the following season. Junior QB Jake Hicks helped orchestrate the turnaround as he threw just two interceptions and completed 54.5 percent of his passes. The offense should also be in better shape with all-HAAC RB Alyn Jackson returning after sitting out last season following a 968-yard showing in 2010. The Avila defense needs to tighten things up against the run after allowing 194 yards rushing per game and 390.3 total yards. Up front, Chris Smith will be counted on to anchor the front line while LB Jesse Kribbs was the team's leading tackler with 67 stops last season.
About the Lynx: The inaugural game in the history of the Lindenwood program should have plenty of excitement for everyone in Belleville. What to expect from the Lynx is a question with very few concrete answers. Their head coach, Jeff Fisher, has plenty of NAIA experience as a former assistant coach at then-NAIA member McKendree (Ill.), where his teams were routinely among the most potent in the nation. The Lynx will play an independent schedule that will also see them face Central Methodist on their home field on October 2. The biggest talking point around the program thus far has been the playing surface, which has FieldTurf installed with five-yard panels that have alternating red and gray paint.
Friends (Kan.) (0-0) at Evangel (0-0), John F. Kennedy Stadium, Springfield, Mo., 6:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Series tied, 1-1
Last meeting: Evangel 45, Friends 0 (Oct. 3, 1981 - Springfield, Mo.)
About the Falcons: Friends was picked third in the KCAC Preseason Coaches Poll after finishing 5-5 last season with a 5-4 mark in league play. The Falcons, under the tutelage of 10th-year head coach Monty Lewis, had one of the stingiest defenses in the NAIA last season. Friends was 2nd in rushing defense (78.0), 3rd in total defense (232.6) and 1st in first downs allowed (123). Senior DE Dexter Davis led the NAIA in sacks (14) and was 3rd in tackles for loss (24.5) to set the edge of the defense. The offense is also led by a senior as Jayme Bristow is under center for his fourth and final campaign, but he'll have to break in a new crop of running backs after his top three from last season have all departed. He will have his top receiver back in senior TE Cody Butts, who had 16 catches for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
About the Crusaders: Head coach Brenton Illum has spoken a great deal heading into 2012 about his third recruiting class and the continuity developed over time with players he has recruited. Injuries derailed a promising start to the 2011 season and led to a five-game losing streak to conclude the campaign. The return of RB Tommy Meyer will provide a consistent presence in the backfield as he has rushed for 1,523 yards and 10 TDs in his three seasons while also hauling in 47 receptions for five TDs. Andrew Brimhall also returns to guide the offense, having completed 127-of-301 for 1,428 yards and 8 TDs last season. His completion percentage should go up with a healthy team around him and help rekindle the Evangel offense. The 3-4 base defense of the Crusaders will be led by a pair of standout linebackers in Jamail Randle and Taber Cheo. The duo combined for 93 tackles including 21 for loss and 8.5 sacks.
#9 Missouri Valley (0-0) at McPherson (Kan.) (0-0), McPherson Stadium, McPherson, Kan., 6:00 p.m.
All-Time Series: Missouri Valley leads, 2-0
Last meeting: Missouri Valley 47, McPherson 10 (Sept. 3, 2011 - Marshall, Mo.)
About the Vikings: Defending conference co-champion Missouri Valley would love nothing more than to start 2012 the same way it did the 2011 campaign. The Vikings forced three turnovers and had two 100-yard rushers in the the win over McPherson, a formula head coach Paul Troth is comfortable replicating. Sophomore QB Bruce Reyes took over the team midway through last season and threw for 1,277 yards and 16 TDs. With RB Keith O'Neal (826 yds) back to spearhead the ground attack and all-HAAC TE Chris Owens giving the passing attack some stability, the Vikings should remain one of the elite teams in the NAIA. The defense was one of the best in the nation last season and expects to remain in that class with all-league performers Tyler Davis, Phil Kraft, Jimmy Moors and Tripp Thomas all back and looking forward to trying to add another conference championship ring to their personal collections.
About the Bulldogs: For the second-straight season, McPherson enters the season with a new head coach as Pete Sterbick takes over as head coach after running the offense at Grand View (Iowa) the past four seasons. The Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate last season with a blowout loss to the Vikings and never recovered as they finished with a 4-7 record. An offense with some experienced returners should give the Bulldogs some optimism. QB Jake Snodgrass threw for 2,094 yards and 19 TDs, but lost his top three receivers from last season. More pressure will be on Julius Record and Travon Jones to pick up the slack in the 3-wide base offense. The Bulldogs will also be breaking in a new starter at running back as Terrance Jones is set to start after carrying just 20 times last season. The defense will be led from the back as all four returners are back in the secondary with SS Phillip Wilson leading the group with 72 tackles last season.