The Muskingum University football team hits the gridiron this Saturday when it travels to Ohio Athletic Conference foe and 10th-ranked Ohio Northern University in a battle of unbeaten teams.
Muskingum (2-0, 1-0) beat rival Marietta College last weekend, 31-23. The win was the second straight for the Muskies in the annual Shrine Game series against the Pioneers and extended the Muskies' OAC road winning streak to three games dating back to last season. Ohio Northern (2-0, 1-0) grabbed a 34-10 win at 18th-ranked Otterbein University to extend its current winning streak to nine games dating back to last year.
Last season's contest was a shoot-out in New Concord in which the Polar Bears narrowly escaped with a 37-34 win. In 2008, the Muskies handed the Polar Bears a 35-21 setback in Ada.
The Muskies will lean on its strong defensive unit, which ranks 11th in total defense and eighth in pass efficiency defense in NCAA Division III, to slow down the Polar Bear offense that is averaging 34.5 points a game.
The hard-hitting unit is led by its all-conference caliber junior linebackers Alex Thomas, Ethan Wetzel and James Beatty.
Thomas and Wetzel share the team lead for tackles averaging 7.5 stops per game. Thomas also ranks sixth in Division III with two interceptions. Beatty is third on the squad averaging five hits per game.
The defensive line is anchored by sophomore Jake Antolak and senior Chad Bajc. Antolak has brought down nine ball carriers, while Bajc who ranks in Muskingum's top 10 all-time for sacks, has five tackles.
Seniors KB Justus and CJ McArthur lead the secondary. Justus has
six tackles and one sack. McArthur, last week's OAC Special Team
Player of the Week for his blocked punt,
has collected four tackles, one pass breakup and one blocked kick.
Muskingum's spread-option offense, which is scoring 25.0 points per contest, is led by senior quarterback Jake Burns. Burns was honored for his play against Marietta with OAC Offensive Player of the Week accolades. He leads the team in both passing and rushing. He has thrown 140 yards on 10-of-18 passing with one touchdown. On the ground, he has amassed 104 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns.
In the backfield with Burns in junior running back Demetrius Bailey. Bailey has rushed 33 times for 100 yards in the first two games of the season and provides a big-play threat when he touches the ball. Bailey has also caught five passes out of the backfield for 40 yards and a score.
The Muskies have seven receivers with receptions this season. The receiver corps are led by junior Antowan Logan and senior Ben Smith. Logan has caught five passes for 59 yards, while Smith has added four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Andrew Davis and freshman tight end Wes Rataiczak have each logged two catches on the year.
Muskingum has also benefited from impressive special teams play early in the campaign. The unit has blocked two punts, recovered one blocked punt for a touchdown and forced and recovered a fumble on a kickoff. Freshman kicker Caleb Carpenter ranks second in the league with three field goals made (22, 29, 39) and sophomore punter Danny Snively has the second longest punt (55 yards) in the conference and ranks sixth overall in punting average (34.8 ypp).
Ohio Northern's 35th ranked scoring offense in Division III is directed by quarterback Kyle Simmons. Simmons has thrown for 385 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has added 101 yards rushing with two scores. Overall, Simmons ranks second in the OAC it total offense averaging 243 yards per contest.
The Polar Bear ground game is paced by Brent Donley who ranks second in the league averaging 105 yards per game. He's averaging 4.1 yards per tote and has rushed for two touchdowns.
Jay Priest, Brook Crawford and Ryan Fleming lead the Ohio Northern receivers. Priest has nine catches for 97 yards and Crawford has seven catches for 101 yards and one touchdown. Fleming has logged six grabs for 102 yards.
The Polar Bear defense, which allows 15.5 points per outing, is led by Jesse Richards with 14 tackles. Chad Coward has 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and four pass breakups, while Marcus Bodamer has 12 tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss. Justin Henck has two interceptions, including one for a touchdown to help lead the secondary.
Ohio Northern also benefits from special teams play. The Polar Bears lead the nation in net punting averaging 46.2 yards per boot.
Kick off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Ada, Ohio and can be heard live on WMCO 90.7 FM and on the Muskingum web broadcasting network located at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/musk.portal#.