Central tries to slow high-powered Dubuque

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PELLA — All signs point to a fierce challenge when the Central College football team travels to the University of Dubuque Saturday.

Game time is 1 p.m. at Chalmers Stadium at Dubuque. The Spartans are 3-0 overall and 1-0 in Iowa Conference play after opening with a 41-16 rout of rival Loras College Saturday night. Central is 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the league following a 37-9 victory over Luther College Saturday.

On the air/cyberspace— 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.

KRLS radio also airs the Coaches' Corner featuring Dutch coach Jeff McMartin at Applebee's restaurant in Pella each Monday night at 7 p.m. The show can be accessed online, either live or via podcast.

Dubuque--The Spartans opened with an 18-13 win at Augustana (Ill.) Sept. 1. Central defeated Augustana 31-23 at Pella Sept. 10. Dubuque then hammered Anderson (Ind.) 67-20 before pounding Loras. The Spartans boast the league's most productive offense, averaging 42.0 points and 441.3 yards, including 279.7 passing yards and 21.6 first downs.

Junior quarterback Wyatt Hanus is the league's leading passer, averaging 258.3 yards per game with a 184.9 efficiency rating. All-American senior wide receiver Michael Zweifel is back for a fifth season and tops the conference charts by a wide margin in receptions (10.3 per game) and receiving yards (160.3). But senior Demacus Fleming is also a threat with 5.9 catches and 79.0 yards per game. Meanwhile, senior running back Justin Spaulding is averaging 100.0 yards per game and 5.1 per carry with four touchdowns.

"Dubuque's a very good football team," coach Jeff McMartin said. "They can get you on a lot of different levels. It's a complete team. They're really good on offense. They have a passing threat and a running threat. They have a big offensive line and their scheme is very sound. Their receivers are very talented. They can beat you deep with their speed or they can go underneath and pick you apart. Their quarterback does a great job of controlling the pace and their running back is a potential 1,000-yard rusher. They're tough to get a handle on."

The Spartans are dramatically improved defensively as well. They're yielding a league-low 16.3 yards per game and 331.0 yards overall. Junior linebacker Trevor Runkle averages 9.5 tackles per game and sophomore defensive back Trevor Kinnett has three interceptions.

"They're quick and big up front, they've got good linebackers and their defensive backs are good at flying around the football," McMartin said. "They're putting more pressure on people this year. They're blitzing more and mixing up their coverages. They're very complex."

The series--McMartin also cites the recent history of Central's games at Dubuque among his concerns. Central's 2007 title winners had their closest call at Dubuque when they had to come from behind for a 37-34 triple-overtime win. In 2008 at Dubuque the Dutch outlasted the Spartans 41-27 in a game that was tied 27-27 midway through the third quarter. It was less of a struggle for Central at home last year in a 34-8 win.

"It's a tough place to play," McMartin said of Chalmers Field. "It's a great environment. Every year is a new year and we're excited to go up there and see how well we can play."

Central holds a 54-15-2 advantage over Dubuque in the all-time series, last falling at Dubuque in 1987, when the Spartans ended Central's record 36-game regular-season winning streak.

Big second half—After being tied 9-9 at halftime against Luther Saturday, the Dutch pitched a 28-0 shutout in the second half. McMartin said he saw progress.

"We got a lot of stops defensively," he said. "We continued to run the ball well. The biggest improvement came on special teams. We had some really big returns and we didn't allow (Luther) to create big returns. Our coverage was improved."

Brett Wilkin (senior, Pleasant Hill, Southeast Polk HS) had three punt returns for 37 yards and three kickoff returns for 79 yards. Mike Furlong (senior, Davenport, Assumption HS) had two punt returns for 31 yards.

But McMartin has a lengthy to-do list for practice this week.

"Against Dubuque we need to do everything better," he said. "I'd like to see us cut down on penalties. We had a lot of those Saturday and they are drive-killers. We have to make sure we're not missing assignments and we want to force some turnovers. We had a couple of chances on turnovers Saturday that we didn't execute on.

"There's no area of the team where we can say we're right where we want to be."

Notes—Quarterback Nate Snead (senior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) is on a record-setting pace in total offense, averaging a league-high 296.0 yards per game. Quarterback Tim Connell set the school mark of 256.2 yards in 2007. Snead is also threatening to become the first Dutch quarterback to lead the team in rushing two straight years, averaging 100.3 yards…Snead has had a hand in 11 of Central's 13 touchdowns in the first three games, scoring five TDs on the ground while passing for six more…Eight of the 15 punts this year by Preston Roberts (senior, Bloomfield, Davis County HS) have landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line and none have resulted in touchbacks…The 48-yard field goal attempted by Kevin Sheldon (freshman, West Des Moines, Valley HS) would have been 4 yards shy of the school record of 52 yards set by Craig Wassenaar in 1982. Wassenaar was among the last Central kickers to not employ the soccer-style kick.