Wittenberg at DePauw
1 P.M., GREENCASTLE, IND.
Records: Wittenberg 6-0, 5-0 North Coast Athletic Coneference; DePauw 6-0, 5-0 NCAC
Last meeting: Wittenberg won 21-10 last season in Springfield. Wittenberg leads series 8-3.
Brenden Jurden might be the poster boy of how Wittenberg has put itself in the hunt for a seventh North Coast Athletic Conference championship, despite taking a body blow when it lost a star-studded senior class from last season.
Jurden, a senior from Newark Catholic, has had to make the touchy switch from right tackle to left tackle — giving new meaning to right-brain, left-brain.
Three first-team all-conference offense linemen graduated, and the Tigers coaching staff has had to change combinations three times. The result has been 448.7 yards and 39.7 points per game going into a showdown of two undefeated teams at DePauw.
“It has been a little bit of a transition because I’ve always been on the right side,” Jurden said. “You have to put your other hand down and you push off on a different leg. I’ve been doing a lot of drills and paying attention to the small things. Those things make a difference in a game.”
Joe Fincham, who has won 197 games since becoming coach in 1996, appreciates Jurden’s selflessness.
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“Brenden has done a very good job for us,” Fincham said. “He came to us as a defensive lineman and missed his whole freshman year to injury. He was a part-time contributor until becoming full-time last year.”
The Tigers roster is composed primarily of players from southwestern Ohio, but central Ohio players have pitched in. Defensive lineman Chandler Ferko of Jonathan Alder leads the team in sacks with 4½, and receiver Bryce Bailey of Columbus Academy leads in receiving with 20 catches in his first season as a starter. He doubles as the punter.
“We’ve got (a footprint) in Columbus,” Fincham said. “Columbus high school football has gotten so much better in the last 20 years. This team has progressed through some touch-and-go moments, and the Columbus guys have contributed a lot.”
Jurden said the reworked offensive line works because the players are close.
“I room with three other linemen, and that’s always a good combination,” he said. “Coach Fincham has told us to take it one game at a time — one day at a time — and we’ve worked exceptionally hard.”
Jurden didn’t think Wittenberg was a good fit for him after his first visit.
“On the second visit a light went on in my head,” he said. “These have been the best four years, and I’m talking academics and football. I wanted to play for a college team that won. That’s the way I was brought up at Newark Catholic.”
Kent State at Ohio
2 P.M., ATHENS
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke has shown signs of becoming the next Tyler Tettleton — Rourke has run for 12 touchdowns to rank second in the nation and has thrown for eight scores for the Bobcats (5-2, 2-1). He has three straight 100-yard rushing games, and Kent State (2-5, 1-2) ranks ninth in the Mid-American Conference in run defense.
Akron at Toledo
Akron (4-3, 3-0) is the surprising leader in the MAC East. The Zips defeated Western Michigan 14-13 on Sunday in a game that was postponed one day because of a powerful thunderstorm. Toledo (5-1, 2-0) is tied with Northern Illinois atop the MAC West.
at Northern Iowa
2 P.M., CEDAR FALLS, IOWA
Youngstown State (3-3, 1-2) has lost two straight Missouri Valley Football Conference games to top-five ranked teams, and the going doesn’t get much easier against Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1). The Penguins haven’t won in the UNI Dome since 1999.
— Mark Znidar