Monmouth remains grounded

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Trey Yocum was a big part of Monmouth's success last year, averaging 119 yards per game. But now the ground game is the focus.
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Question: How do you move on after losing an All-American quarterback who set school and conference passing records?

Answer: Run the ball.

That’s what the Monmouth Fighting Scots have done with success as they defend their Midwest Conference title. Alex Tanney, who shepherded the Fighting Scots aerial attack last year is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs (on injured reserve). Monmouth, this year, has decided to lean on junior running back Trey Yocum with great success.

In Monmouth’s 31-9 victory over traditional MWC contender St. Norbert last year, Yocum rushed for 149 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. For the season, Yocum is averaging 127.5 yards a contest (95-510) in four games.

Monmouth coach Steve Bell said it was an easy decision to ride Yocum.

“You have to adapt, change and understand who your best players are in any given year,” Bell said. “Last year, Trey’s production was based on people structuring their defense to defend against Alex and our passing game. It was a different style last year from what we’re doing now. Things are more downhill and not as much in a shotgun as when Alex was here. We’re doing what he’s now more built for, a more of a physical downhill running game.”

Bell said the Fighting Scots didn’t have to retrofit its offense after Tanney graduated, but it was a matter of tweaks to turn it into a stable running game.

“I think our offensive line coach does a terrific job,” Bell said. “It’s not that we’re calling anything different. It’s just the flavor is a little bit different. We’re running what we’ve always run, but it’s structurally different because we’re not in the gun. We’re running it out of the I-formation and two-tight end and one-back looks."

Yocum’s play has allowed time for Monmouth’s junior quarterback Brik Wedekind to easy into the position. For the season, Wedekind has completed 50 of 84 passes and is averaging 136.2 yards per game.

Bell said his team’s biggest challenge this season is trying to find consistency on offense and defense. He said the St. Norbert game was the first contest where the Fighting Scots were able to put together long drives and defensive stops without momentum-killing mistakes. He said his team will have to continue to succeed in those areas to win another conference title.

“Offensively and defensively, we were inconsistent all season,” Bell said. “When we were good on both sides, we were good, but kept killing ourselves at some point during the drive. We were never able to pay dividends scoring points and getting stops. Especially in the first game, we had multiple opportunities to put points on the board and Coe was able to take advantage of inconsistency.”

After scoring such a big victory against St. Norbert, Monmouth now must fight against the demon of looking ahead two weeks to a big game against Lake Forest (4-1, 4-0 in MWC) and an even bigger contest Oct. 27 against Illinois College (4-0, 3-0). Bell didn’t even want to talk about it.

“Our next game is against Grinnell,” Bell said with a laugh. “We never worry about who our upcoming opponents are down the road. Doing that would be just setting you up for failure. Here, it’s never been an issue and never been the focus. Winning conference titles is a culmination of things. If we take care of our business week to week, we hope to get to the point where we can worry about those things.”

Despite bigger tests coming down the road, Bell said his team is still planning on running downhill until someone stops them.

Game to watch

Wisconsin Lutheran (3-1, 1-0 NATHC) at Concordia-Chicago (4-0, 1-0): With Benedictine suffering a rare early-conference loss, the winner of this game would gain an upper hand in winning the Northern Athletics Conference title. Concordia quarterback Jake Koehler is averaging nearly 300 yards a game passing (289.5 ypg) and has thrown for 12 touchdowns for the Cougars while wide receiver Jamal Thomas is averaging 108.8 yards per contest with seven touchdowns. The Cougars are averaging 43.2 per game, but the Warriors are only giving up 15.5 points per game. Wisconsin Lutheran wide receiver Josh Stodola is averaging 129 yards game receiving.

Second game to watch

Illinois College (4-0, 3-0 in MWC) at Lake Forest (4-1, 4-0):  With its four wins, Lake Forest has won its most games since going 5-5 in 2007. Two more wins, and the Foresters will have its first winning season since 2004 when they went 8-2. But can Lake Forest stop the high flying offense of Illinois College? Having home field advantage could make this interesting.


Carthage (3-1, 1-0 CCIW) at No. 20 Wheaton (3-1, 1-0): After losing to Albion in the second week of the season, the Wheaton Thunder continue to right the ship, but Carthage could make this game competitive.

Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss
1999-2000 columnist: Don Stoner

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