QBs are key for Central, Luther
PELLA—Two of the Iowa Conference's top dual-threat quarterbacks will be on display Saturday when the Central College football team squares off with Luther College.
Game time is 1 p.m. at Carlson Stadium in Decorah.
Dutch signal-caller Nate Snead (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) is second in the league in total offense with 260.7 yards a game while Luther junior Chris Reynolds is third with 247.4 yards.
Records—Central is 5-1 overall and 3-1 in league play after a 38-10 triumph past Simpson College at Pella Saturday. The Dutch remain at No. 9 in the D3football.com top 25 and No. 15 in the AFCA poll. Luther is 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the conference, getting a late field goal for a 24-21 victory over Cornell at Decorah Saturday.
On the air, on the Web—Trevor Castle will call the play-by-play of Saturday's game on KRLS-FM (92.1) and the broadcast can also be accessed through Central's website at www.central.edu/athletics or through www.kniakrls.com.
The series—Central was a 35-17 winner over Luther at Pella last year and has won 27 of the teams' last 29 meetings. The Dutch lead the all-time series 48-22-1, but Luther used a big second half to thump Central 26-7 in the teams' most recent matchup in Decorah in 2008. Coach Jeff McMartin said he didn't need any reminders of that day.
"The message we have for our players is that this is a new year and a new team, but we know that (Luther) is a tough place to play and we're going to expect a great battle," McMartin said. "If you go to Decorah and win a football game, you know you've done something well, because they have a good football team."
The Norse—Luther returns a pair of first-team all-league defenders in junior linebacker Kyle McGivney, last year's team MVP, and senior defensive back Josh Patterson.
McGivney is on a rampage, averaging a phenomenal 21.6 tackles per game and was the leading tackler in Division III heading into last weekend.
"He's a tremendous linebacker," McMartin said. "He's a sideline-to-sideline player who makes a lot of plays. Their defensive backs are very good as well. They have some really talented cornerbacks. They're very opportunistic and have pretty much held people in check, other than the Coe game (a 42-19 loss Sept. 18).
Luther is outgaining opponents 377.0-352.6 yards and outscoring them 25.0-24.4.
Reynolds is the heart of the Norse offense and his numbers are similar to Snead's in the league statistical rankings:
Rushing 6. 70.8 yds. 5. 74.3 yds.
Passing 5. 176.6 yds. 3.186.6 yds.
Comp.-Att.-Int. 88-161-2 (54.7 pct.) 68-111-7 (61.3 pct.)
Pass efficiency 7. 116.7 3. 154.9
Total offense 3. 247.4 yds. 2. 260.7 yds.
"They both can run it and throw it," McMartin said. "(Reynolds) is a very good football player. For us to have success on defense, we need to make sure we contain him."
Luther also has the league's receiving leader, junior Dalen Dirth, who has 26 catches for 256 yards and two scores.
"Offensively, they're pretty versatile," McMartin said. "They hit you from a lot of different angles. They can put points on the board.
"The defense gives you a lot of different looks. They're very similar to Augustana (Ill.) in the way they move their linebacker around. You have to trust your rules and not chase people."
Dutch D steps up—The Central defense has turned in a pair of improved performances and hasn't yielded a touchdown since Sept. 25. The only opponent touchdown in that span came on a blocked punt return Saturday against Simpson. The Dutch limited Simpson to 131 yards total offense, including only 35 passing yards.
"I thought the defense played well," McMartin said. "Guys were flying around and pursuing the ball very well, outside of a couple of plays. I thought we did a good job of taking them out of what they wanted to do. In the second half, we really limited Simpson."
Sophomore defensive back Trent Heetland (Ackley, AGWSR HS) finally got Central's first interception of the season.
"It was nice to get that out of the way," McMartin said.
Central passed for 248 yards and ran for 155. The Dutch were averaging 215.8 yards on the ground.
"The offense was kind of a mixed bag," McMartin said. "Some things we didn't execute the way we wanted to.
"But we had some good runs. We ran the ball in the red zone effectively and we had some big plays in the passing game. I felt we had a pretty good balance."
Dutch numbers—Kicker Jake Viggers (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) has broken the school career field goals record with 34, breaking the mark set by Joel Buseman (1993-97). Mike Furlong (junior, Davenport, Assumption HS) is sixth in school history in career kick return yards (740).
Defensive lineman Shane Wong (senior, Pleasant Hill, Southeast Polk HS) has climbed into third in career quarterback sacks with 29 and is fifth in career tackles for loss with 37.5. Defensive back Cody Baethke (senior, Williamsburg) is second in career pass breakups with 24.
Snead moved into fifth on the school career charts in total offense with 3,753 yards. With nine more passing yards, Snead will move into the top 10 in career passing yardage. In 18 games, he's thrown for 2,401 yards. His TD pass Saturday was his 24th, giving him sole possession of 11th place on the Dutch career charts. Snead is also 10th in career completions with 176 and moved into a tie for seventh in touchdowns scored with 28.
Notes—A win Saturday would assure Central of its 49th winning season since 1960…Snead, who scored two more touchdowns Saturday, entered the day tied for 10th in Division III in scoring with 12.0 points per game…Wong took over the conference sacks lead and will likely climb from a tie for 27th in the Division III rankings. He's also first in the league in tackles for loss (1.75 per game). Central remains No. 1 in the conference in rushing (205.7 yards per game), first downs (21.3) and 3rd-down conversions (48.8 percent, 39-80). Furlong is first in punt returns (10.4 yds.) while Viggers is first in extra points (28-28) and tied for first in field goals (1.0, 6-10).