SETTING THE STAGE
The Eureka College football team will make its first of three trips to the state of Minnesota in 2011 when the Red Devils travel to New Ulm, Minn. for a 1 p.m. Upper Midwest Athletic Conference matchup with the Martin Luther Knights this Saturday.
The Red Devils enters Saturday's game at Martin Luther riding their best start and first three-game winning streak since 1995 after a 22-18 league victory over Westminster last weekend at McKinzie Field. The win, Eureka's first on Homecoming since 2002, improved the Red Devils to 3-1 overall and 3-0 against UMAC competition
Eureka forced six Westminster turnovers on Saturday and scored the game-winning touchdown with 5:27 remaining when quarterback Sam Durley's pass found Wes Schmidgall for a 38-yard touchdown.
The Red Devils currently lead the 10-team UMAC in passing offense (302.5), pass defense efficiency (100.3), net punting average (35.0), first downs allowed (16.2) and third down conversions allowed (25.9%).
ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER
A school of more than 1,000 students that opened its doors in 1995 in New Ulm, Minn., Martin Luther owns a 1-4 overall record and 1-3 UMAC mark in 2011.
The Knights dropped a 28-6 decision to Presentation last Saturday in New Ulm in what proved to be Presentation's first victory in program history. MLC yielded 465 yards to the Saints, punted on six of its final eight possessions and didn't find the end zone on offense until its final possession of game.
Using a run-first offensive scheme, MLC ranks third among UMAC squads with 210.4 rushing yards per game. Three different players have carried at least 40 times through the Knights' first five contests, and senior quarterback Joseph Lindloff ranks sixth in the league with 77.6 rushing yards per game. The Knights prefer runs plays over pass plays at nearly a 3:1 ratio.
While its rushing offense has proved to be potent, Martin Luther has been plagued by turnovers this season. MLC has given the ball away 25 times for a UMAC-worst minus-19 turnover margin and has lost 15 of its 22 fumbles in 2011.
THE HEAD COACHES
Eureka College athletics Hall of Famer Kurt Barth is currently in his third season as the head coach of the Red Devils in 2011.
Since being hired as the 12th head coach in program history in December 2008, Barth has rejuvenated the EC football program and installed one of the most prolific passing offenses in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and all of NCAA Division III.
Barth is 1-1 all-time against Martin Luther and can reach the .500 career mark against UMAC opponents for the first time with a win this Saturday.
Doug Lange is in his seventh season directing the Knights. A 1977 graduate of Northwestern (Minn.), Lange is 34-28 at Martin Luther and has guided the Knights to a winning season in five of his first six seasons in New Ulm.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Red Devils and Knights will meet for the third time on Saturday, as the squads have split their first two meetings.
In the first matchup on Sept. 19, 2009, Eureka scored 20 points in the final seven minutes of the game for an improbable 41-34 comeback victory at McKinzie Field. Wes Schmidgall, then a sophomore, hauled in two touchdown passes from Nick Lindsey in the final two minutes of the game to help the Red Devils erase a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Martin Luther returned the favor last season at the UMAC's 11th annual Dome Day at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, exploding for 38 unanswered points and 283 rushing yards in a 52-13 victory.
FIRST TRIP TO NEW ULM
With the 2011 campaign marking Eureka's third season as an associate member of the UMAC, Saturday's road trip to New Ulm marks the Red Devils' first game played at the MLC Bowl, Martin Luther's home field.
Eureka has made visits to six of its nine UMAC opponents so far and will take its first trip to Minnesota-Morris next weekend. Northwestern (Minn.) is the only other team yet to host the Red Devils, as the 2010 game was played at McKinzie Field and this year's contest will be played in the Metrodome on Oct. 29.
MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM
Last weekend's 22-18 victory over Westminster improved Eureka to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play, both marks being Eureka's best since the 1995 season.
The Red Devils went 9-1 in 1995 and did not lose a conference game, sweeping the Illini-Badger Football Conference slate with a perfect 6-0 record to win the league title.
The win over the Blue Jays also extended Eureka's win streak to three games, the Red Devils' longest stretch without a loss since EC won eight in a row in 1995-96.
A win on Saturday against the Knights would also give the Red Devils consecutive conference road victories for the first time since 2008 and just the third time since 1996.
WATCH THE GAME LIVE ONLINE
The Martin Luther athletics department plans to offer a live video stream of Saturday's game on "Knight Vision". Eureka fans can visit http://www.mlc-wels.edu/home/athletics/vision/ Saturday at 1 p.m. to watch the broadcast live on their computers.
Additionally, EC fans are encouraged to follow the Red Devils on Twitter and "Like" the Red Devils on Facebook for instant updates sent directly to their computer or mobile device. Visit the official Eureka College athletics website for more information and use the hashtag #ecreddevils to join the conversation.
WEEKLY HONORS FOR ABBED
Following his seven-tackle, two-interception performance in Eureka's homecoming win over Westminster, junior strong safety Murad Abbed was chosen as the UMAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Abbed intercepted Westminster quarterback Scott Rodgers twice in critical situations on Saturday. His first interception came on 3rd-and-goal from Eureka's 21-yard line, ending what would have been a go-ahead scoring drive for the Blue Jays with 12:10 left in the second quarter. The pick was the first Abbed's career. His second interception ended another Westminster drive deep in Eureka territory and protected the Red Devils' 8-point lead, a pick in the end zone on 3rd-and-goal from the 5-yard line with 8:04 remaining in the third quarter.
Abbed, who joined the Eureka football squad midway through the 2009 season as a running back and missed all of 2010 with a major knee injury, has recorded 21 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions in four starts as Eureka's strong safety in 2011.
THE DEFENSE STANDS TALL
While Murad Abbed received individual recognition from the league earlier this week, the entire defensive unit put together a spectacular effort against what was then the UMAC's top-ranked passing offense.
Several Red Devils chipped in to stop Westminster's last gasp on Saturday. With less than two minutes remaining and a four-point lead, sophomore linebacker Frankie Bray took down quarterback Scott Rogders for his first career sack, a 13-yard loss that forced the Blue Jays to burn a timeout.
One play later, junior defensive end Dan Bolsen deflected a Rodgers pass across the middle, allowing the fluttering ball to land in the hands of Jacob Carls to secure the Red Devils' victory.
Westminster, who entered last weekend's contest with a Division III-best plus-18 turnover margin, finished Saturday at a minus-6. The Red Devils recorded our interceptions and fell on a pair of Blue Jay fumbles. In two games at McKinzie Field in 2011, the Red Devils own a plus-8 turnover margin.
Senior cornerback Rosney Beverly and the Eureka secondary held UMAC receiving leader Carl Givens (116.8 YPG) to just one catch for seven yards. Senior free safety Mike Minehan made 10 stops and came away with a critical interception to end a Westminster drive late in the fourth quarter.
CAREER-HIGH FOR DAWSON...AGAIN
Junior wide receiver Matt Dawson continued his early-season contributions as a wide receiver last Saturday, setting a new career-high in receptions for the fourth consecutive week.
Making his second career start on Saturday, Dawson hauled in a team-best seven catches. His 11-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the third of his career.
NEW MARK FOR HESS
Senior tight end Alex Hess played a large role in Saturday's victory, making six catches for a career-high 90 receiving yards.
Hess, who also owns Eureka's only rushing touchdown of 2011, made catches to help the Red Devils convert on third down twice, including a 3rd-and-15 conversion in the fourth quarter. Through four games this season, Hess has made 15 catches for 222 yards.
FOLLOWELL'S FIRST CATCH
After seeing limited playing time since joining the Eureka football program in 2010, sophomore receiver Cody Followell made his first career reception last Saturday -- and it was a big one.
Facing 1st-and-20 to start their first drive of the game after a penalty pushed the Red Devils back to their own 18-yard line, Followell snagged a 52-yard completion from quarterback Sam Durley. The play, Eureka's second-longest from scrimmage all season, sparked the Red Devils' opening drive that ended with a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Eureka College seniors Alex Hess, Mike Minehan and Wes Schmidgall have each been selected to the D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-America Third Team, according to an announcement from the website in late August.
D3PRODAY.com is the nation's first and only Division III Pro Day and Combine for seniors after the regular season. D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-Americans represent the board's best seniors in Division III. The selection board is made up of pro scouts, NFL and CFL agents and former NFL coaches and players.