For the first time since traveling to UW-Platteville to open the season, the Buena Vista football team will be on the road to play a football game, traveling to Wartburg College this Saturday afternoon looking to even its Iowa Conference record.
The Beavers (0-4, 0-1 IIAC) face the Knights fresh off a heartbreaking 21-7 Homecoming loss a week ago against #20 Coe College in which the game was tied 7-7 with under five minutes to go. It was the fourth straight opponent for BVU that is currently ranked in the top-25 nationally.
"I thought we really gave good effort in all three phases," says head coach Jay Anderson. "We just need to execute better offensively, and on defense, we need to be better on first down."
BVU, which has the toughest strength of schedule thus far in all of Division III, will be up against another stiff opponent in Wartburg, as the Knights (3-1, 1-0 IIAC) come in receiving votes as well in the latest national poll. The team's only setback through its first four outings was a 30-17 road loss at #5 Bethel University in Week 2. It enters this week's match-up following a 34-24 home win over Simpson College last week to open the IIAC schedule.
"It'll be a great opportunity for us again this weekend," Anderson adds. "Our main focus is simply to go out there and work to get to one-and-one in league play. To get that done, we're certainly going to have to play at a high level and be physical."
Anderson was happier to see a better balance offensively and was pleased with how his offense ran the ball against a tough Kohawk defense a week ago.
"We did run the ball better on Saturday," he says. "I thought Dylan ran hard and was physical. If we can keep improving with the ground game, it will give us a chance to break off more big plays."
The offense will be going up against a Wartburg defense which is allowing nearly 18 points per contest and surrendering just less than 360 yards of total offense. It has been toughest so far against the run with opponents posting only 92.2 yards per contest, compared to 266.5 through the air.
"To be honest, I have no idea how that defense allows so many yards," Anderson says. "They put so much pressure on you up front, so we have to be physical and stick to our plan and be balanced in all phases."
Barrett's 26 carries against the Kohawks were a season-high and his 88 yards was his second-highest. He also has the team's lone rushing touchdown on the year. Quarterback Bobby Brown has also been able to make plays happen with his legs, having posted a run of at least 15 yards in three of the first four games.
Brown will look to do most of his damage through the air, though, where he has passed for better than 215 yards in three straight games and is 157 yards shy of 1,000 for the year. He has thrown for a least one touchdown in three of the four contests and has been sacked just nine times on the year.
He's had a trio of go-to-receivers to throw to, with junior Adam Cave leading the way, hauling in 19 passes for 229 yards and two scores. Sophomore Jalen Henningsen is close behind with 15 grabs for 227 yards and one touchdown, while junior Gunner Gilland has 12 catches for 221 yards and two TD's.
Defensively, BVU held the Kohawks to a season-low passing total and that effort will have to be closely matched again this weekend to help keep the Knights out of the end-zone.
Brady Randall turned in a team-high 12 tackles and came up with a big interception in the red-zone in his first action since the loss to Concordia in Week 2. The Beavers are allowing 218 yards through the air, compared to 234 on the ground.
"They have some very explosive, high-skilled guys," Anderson adds. "Their quarterback is a pass-run threat which can easily cause miss-matches in the secondary. Our guys need to be able to read their keys and stay in good position."
It could be another toe-to-toe defensive battle like it was throughout most of Saturday's game with the Kohawks, and that means field position could prove to be a key factor on both sides. Freshman Tyler Stolen did his part against Coe to change field position by averaging better than 39 yards on three punts, including a career-best 61-yard boot.
"He did a tremendous job for us in that game," says Anderson. "Field position is one-third of the game and he did his part to help us in that sense."
The Knights have won three straight over BVU, including a 42-21 win last season. The last time the two teams met in Waverly, Wartburg led just 14-7 at halftime before going on to score touchdowns late in both the third and fourth quarters en route to the 27-7 win.
Kick-off between the two teams is scheduled for 1:30pm. A live local radio broadcast can be found at 97.5FM KBVU with a live video stream linked at www.bvuathletics.com.