October 10, 2013

CUW takes a big step forward

More news about: Concordia (Wis.)
Austin Damaschke was handed the reins of the offense as a freshman at CUW and has continued to grow.
Photo by Jordan Vredeveld for Concordia (Wis.)

Concordia (Wis.) coach Greg Etter said he hopes his Falcons have righted the ship after a 1-2 start in the nonconference play.

Nothing can do that better than a big conference win over an upstart like Benedictine last Saturday. Concordia's come-from-behind 28-27 victory has the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference favorites again looking like the favorites.

"We beat a very good Benedictine team which has probably the best running back in our league," Etter said of Michael McNulty, who rushed for 209 yards against Concordia. "We had to put forward our best effort. They bye week helped. We went through some growing pains but I think we took a big step forward."

If the Benedictine game does prove to be a turning point for Concordia, they will look at the Falcons final drive, where LaCurt Evans scored on a 2-yard run with 1:03 left in the contest. Concordia's big play combination of quarterback Austin Damaschke and Garrett Wenzelburger has proven golden this season.

Damaschke is completing 66.4 percent of his passes (97-for-146) for 1,045 yards. Wenzelburger has 36 catches this season for 480 yards and five touchdowns.

"Austin has flourished with what we're doing on offense," Etter said. "Our offense begins with him. He's a winner on the field and off. He's the leader of our football and guys look to him because he wants to pressure.

"Wenzelburger is a two-time all-conference player for us and everybody knows that he's our go-to guy. He's a big target but everybody think he's a fade guy. If you watch him, he has much more athleticism than people give him credit for."

While Concordia has been able to throw the football, Etter said the key to the Falcons season will be how well they can balance out the offense and run the ball more effectively. Etter said Concordia will lean on Evans, who is recovering from injury and former hockey player Shay Klitzke to build its ground game.

Concordia's biggest challenges lie on defense, where the Falcons are surrendering 33 points per game, with a 49-point average in the Falcons two losses. Etter said he has made to move around parts on defense and team is still growing in that area.

"We're really young," he said. "We have people who haven't played before or haven't played varsity before. Because of injuries, we've had to move safeties to linebacker and linebackers to the defensive line."

Joe Paul, for example, played wide receiver and running back last year but was converted to inside linebacker during the spring. Paul, though, added punt and kickoff returns to his resume as well. So Paul is one Concordia's leading tacklers (37) and one of top return specialists.

"There's probably not a lot of inside linebackers who are returning kickoff and punts," Etter said. "He's just learning to play linebacker but he has a toughness that makes him good at that position. I think up until last week he was one of the leading tacklers in the conference."

Another Concordia linebacker, Luke Scheuerlein, earned NACC defensive player of the week honors for collecting 10 tackles and coming up with a key fourth quarter interception that helped the Falcons secure its victory over Benedictine.

Etter said, though, his defense need to get better and do it quickly if the Falcons plan on pulling out the NACC title.

"We just have to get better on defense, there's no doubt about it," Etter said of his unit, which is surrendering 470.7 yards per game. "We also have to solidify our special teams. We have enough weapons on special teams that we should be able to create a big play potential."

The ground war

The fight the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin rushing title is heating up between Sean Dunning of Millikin and Illinois Wesleyan's Devonte Jones. Dunning has led the CCIW pretty much all season, averaging 127.8 yards per game (511 yards total). Jones, though, rushed for 226 yards on 35 carries against Millikin last year in a 35-21 IWU win, bring his average to 124.5 yards per game (498 total yards). Both players have six games to go. Dunning and Millikin travels to No. 4 North Central this week while Jones and IWU are at home against North Park.

Watch these games on Saturday

Lake Forest (5-0) at Illinois College (4-0) and Cornell (3-1) at St. Norbert (4-1): All four of these teams are undefeated in the Midwest Conference and after Saturday the conference championship picture will clear up dramatically. St. Norbert is the perennial kingpins in the conference and managed to win the MWC playoff bid last year. Illinois College is the only team in this group receiving votes in the Top 25 ranking and could make a good case for itself with a solid victory over Lake Forest.

Mount St. Joseph (3-1) at No. 14 Franklin (2-2) – There was a time when this contest was the marquee matchup in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The Lions are off to one of their best recent starts at 3-1 and 3-0 in HCAC play. Mount St. Joe's has also scored over 50 points in its last two contests against Bluffton (52-28) and Anderson (55-24). After close losses to No. 1 Mount Union and non-scholarship FCS Butler, Franklin is also 2-0 and coming off of scoring 80 points against Earlham. Someone may want to bring a calculator or two to this game.

comments powered by Disqus

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

Previous Columns

September 17, 2014
Monmouth finds it takes two to fill Trey's shoes
Trey Yocum is the standard-bearer for the Monmouth run game. But since his graduation, the Scots...
September 10, 2014
Elation and deflation
Austin Swenson looked a lot more like an exclamation point than a question mark for Rose-Hulman,...
September 3, 2014
10 games to watch for 2014
Around the Midwest returns for another year, with a look at the top games involving teams from the...
November 19, 2013
Bid brings excitement to Wash U
While there weren't many surprises in what teams from the Midwest made the Division III playoffs...
November 13, 2013
Red-letter day for Green Knights
Few moments in recent football history for St. Norbert are as memorable as this past weekend, when...
November 6, 2013
Bears surviving nail-biters
Wash U may well have seen its season flash before its eyes on Saturday. In fact, it's been that way...
October 31, 2013
Coming down to crunch time
North Central and Illinois Wesleyan face off, North Park surprises again, Concordia (Wis.) is in...
October 22, 2013
Illinois Wesleyan bouncing back
After finishing last season with four consecutive losses, IWU is bouncing back, heading into key...
October 16, 2013
North Central subscribes to the Cardinal Manual
Coach John Thorne's Cardinal Manual contains a different type of game plan – it gets the...
October 10, 2013
CUW takes a big step forward
Concordia (Wis.) is hoping it has righted the ship after a 1-2 start. And if the Benedictine game...
October 2, 2013
After chaotic summer, Maroons avoid falling
It must seem like a whirlwind for Chris Wilkerson and the University of Chicago, which was surprised...
September 24, 2013
Wheaton winning methodically
One of the largest senior classes in Wheaton history has the Thunder on an even keel.
September 19, 2013
Illinois College erasing sobering end to 2012
Illinois College's Garrett Campbell knows that it takes more than two games – not even nine...
September 11, 2013
For Franklin, playing close isn't enough
When Franklin saw No. 1 Mount Union storm back for the game-winning touchdown Saturday, coach Mike...
September 4, 2013
Games to watch for 2013
Over the next 11 weeks, there will be certain games that will define a team's entire season on their...

Other Columnists