September 28, 2011

A new era at Muskingum?

More news about: Muskingum
Muskingum got a huge game out of its defense this past week.
Muskingum athletics file photo 

For five seasons, Al Logan has been about crafting a new era at Muskingum. Like most team building efforts, progress is often gauged in microscopic measurements. It's a collection of baby steps that provide the foundation.

Saturday in a 27-7 win over perennially ranked Ohio Northern, the Muskies effectively removed the veil of obscurity from his project.

Enduring 92 offensive plays by the then-ninth-ranked Polar Bears, the defense limited ONU to 107 yards of rushing, forced two interceptions and recorded eight sacks. They also reeled off 27 unanswered points to notch their first victory of a Top 25 opponent since 1995.

The victory solidified their position as one of the top defenses in NCAA Division III. Consider:

  • First in sacks (24).
  • Second in tackles for loss (34).
  • 10th in scoring defense (9.3) and rush defense (57 ypg)
  • 18th in total defense (237.3 ypg)

All from a team from a team that struggled to come within shooting distance of a .500 season in four previous campaigns. The Muskies were 0-10 in 2007.  In 2008 they posted a 3-7 record, 2-7 in the conference, followed by a 4-6, 4-5 finish in 2009. In 2010, Muskingum was 3-7, 2-7.

To ask Logan, it’s not about any new-fangled schemes or gambling on a cast-off from a bigger school.  It's really as simple as experience.

“They are older and smarter,” he said.

“It’s a group that's been around for two or three years and they have a ton invested in the program. Its also chemistry, they believe in one-another, they are comfortable and play hard for each other.”

Team depth doesn’t hurt either. The Muskies typically rotate about 18 or 19 guys into games. In three games 13 defenders have recorded sacks, while 17 have made tackles for loss. “We don’t have super stars. We just have guys who know their roles and making the most of it,” Logan said.

Maintaining a roster of 80 to 100 kids, gutting out losing seasons and honing underclassmen through the junior varsity system is starting to also show fruit.

“We truly believe championships and win you championships,” he said. “We don't talk about this enough. But, I think we've worked hard to build this level of talent.”

Logan

Let’s not overlook a lot of hard work tossed into the recipe. “I’m proud of where they've come. We don’t have a lot of individual stories in there. It's having that expectation of winning. I don't think a lot bothers them. They don’t care who they play. They play as hard on the last snap on the first snap."

The bottom line to Logan is the scoreboard and protecting it. When you don’t give up points, you can win games and you build great seasons.

“You have to stop people from scoring. ... That’s what this team is doing and we haven’t been able to do that before.”

Let's not forgot a very capable offense and strong special teams. “We are making big plays and we have a good mix of what we are doing.”

Game notes

Casey Vogl rushed for four touchdowns and 145 yards in John Carroll's 37-35 win against Marietta.

In just one half of action, Jeremy Murray finished with 167 yards rushing on 12 carries in Mount Union's 66-7 win over Willmington.

Marietta's Andrew Keller threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Three Pioneer receivers recorded more than 100 yards. (Chad Walker 9 for 133, TD, Tannon Roberts 8-126 two TD, Kirby Harris 5-129).

Robert Kues passed for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Thomas More to a 35-32 win over Washington and Jefferson. Shaquille Jinks recorded 12 tackles and a fumble. Matt Bliss connected on 30 of 50 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns for the Presidents in the loss. Ian Hennessy and Nathan Melhorn each notched 13 tackles.

Ryan Williams had 10 tackles for Waynesburg in a 32-26 win against Grove City.

Carnegie Mellon's Eric Rhodes had 11 tackles in a 35-14 win against Kenyon.

Case Western Reserve's Bryan Metlesitz grabbed nine passes for 138 yards in their 24-6 win over Denison. Denison's Max Paulus threw for 269 yards.

Wes Chamblee set a Wabash school record with a 94-yard punt return in a 49-7 win at Chicago. The Giant defense was stout, limiting Chicago to just 48 yards rushing, 89 passing.

Shawn Jackson ran for two touchdowns and 151 yards as Hope topped Lakeland 28-14. Kyle Warren had a hand in 16 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered another for the Flying Dutchmen.

Nick Jones completed 31 of 36 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 93 yards and two scores as Kalamazoo beat Benedictine 58-19.  Dimeko Price scored twice as he rushed for 119 yards and caught nine balls for 99 yards.

Wittenberg beat Allegheny as Ben Zoeller passed for 294 yards. Josh McKee had seven catches for 179 yards receiving and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. In the process, he became the first player in Tiger history to record 200 catches.  With 201 in his career, he's 23 short of tying the NCAC record.

Adrian edged Concordia (Ill.) 19-17 as Danny Cobb rushed for 186 yards. Justin Hemm had seven receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Miller threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns.

Jarrett Leister threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-42 loss to Washington and Lee. Scot teammates Ricky Roth had seven catches for 110 yards and two scores. Barak Henderson tallied five receptions for 174 yards.

Matt Grimard threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in Bethany's 48-27 win over Geneva. Alex Evans had five catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. Geneva's Vince Larson had 10 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.

Chase Carris passed for 239 yards in a 14-11 win over Baldwin-Wallace. Ryan O'Rourke had 244 yards of passing in the loss.

Remember when
The last time Muskingum beat a Top 25 team was in 1995, a 17-0 win over No. 25 Baldwin-Wallace. The Muskies are now 3-0 for the first time since 1996.

Mount Union had 411 yards on the ground and 260 in the air as the 671 total yards were most in a regular sason game since a 62-0 win over Muskingum, Sept. 22, 2007, when the Purple Raiders had 690.

Heidleberg's win against Otterbein is the first against the Cardinals since 2002.

Great Lakes Region teams in D3football.com’s Top 25 poll this week
No. 2 - Mount Union (OAC) – Picks up six first place votes, remains at No. 2 with a 66-7 win over John Carroll
No. 8 - Thomas More (PAC) -  Holding steady no movement. Edged W&J 35-32.
No. 15 - Wabash (NCAC) – Up two spots. Beat Chicago 49-7
No. 16 - Wittenberg (NCAC) – Up two spots Topped Allegheny 38-3.
No. 17 – Trine (MIAA) – Climbs one spot, did not play.
No. 24 - Ohio Northern (OAC) -  Drops 15 slots after losing 27-7 to Muskingum
Others receiving votes: Adrian (MIAA).

Games of the Week:
Adrian (4-0, 0-0 MIAA) at Trine (3-0, 0-0), 1 p.m. ET:
It's the conference opener for both, and it could be the game that determines the league title and playoff destinations. Trine has won three-straight conference crowns. This season, Adrian has been relatively quiet, but potent, averaging more than 450 yards a game on offensive and leads the conference defensively against the run, the pass and in points scored.

Mount Union (3-0, 2-0 OAC) at Ohio Northern (2-1, 1-1), 1:30 p.m. ET: With ONU's loss Saturday at Muskingum, the Polar Bears not only have something to prove, they are in the uneviable position of trying to slay the dragon to stay in OAC race. Mount Union has all the momentum in the world.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Findlay, Ohio. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending the last 10 at The Courier in Findlay. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois and lives in Ottawa with his wife and daughter.

2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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