SETTING THE STAGE
The Eureka College football team will participate in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Dome Day for the third consecutive year when the Red Devils square off against the Northwestern (Minn.) Eagles at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn.
Eureka will bring a 4-3 overall record and 4-2 UMAC mark into Saturday's game against the Eagles and look to end a two-game losing streak.
Eureka put together a remarkable fourth-quarter rally to erase a 15-point deficit in the final seven minutes of last weekend's game against Greenville at McKinzie Field, but the Panthers drove 55 yards in the final 70 seconds to overcome Eureka for a 36-33 win.
A 465-passing yard effort by EC last weekend bumped the Red Devils' season average to 316.3 yards per game, tops among UMAC teams and 11th in all of NCAA Division III. Additionally, Eureka's pass defense (150.9) ranks 35th nationally.
A full-fledged member of the UMAC in St. Paul, Minn., Northwestern is 5-3 overall in 2011 and 5-2 against UMAC opponents. The Eagles defeated Martin Luther last Saturday in St. Paul, 35-26, for their second consecutive victory.
The Eagles boast one of the UMAC's most balanced offenses, as Northwestern averages 163.1 rushing yards and 184.0 passing yards per contest. Additionally, junior return specialist Brian Lecheler leads all UMAC players with a kick return average of 26.8 yards and two return touchdowns to anchor Northwestern's dangerous special teams unit.
Two of Northwestern's three losses in 2011 came to traditional Division III power St. John's (Minn.) (34-0 on Sept. 3) and current UMAC leader St. Scholastica (35-7 on Oct. 8).
Northwestern College is a private Christian liberal arts college founded in 1902. The campus, located only seven miles from the Metrodome, includes nearly 3,000 undergraduate students.
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 will be looking to guide Eureka to its second straight win over Northwestern. The Eagles join MacMurray at Knox as three teams Barth is unbeaten against.
Three-time UMAC Coach of the Year Kirk Talley is in his 11th season as the head coach at Northwestern. Talley has guided the Eagles to five UMAC championships since sweeping the league schedule in 2001 in addition to a UMAC North Division title in 2003.
Talley also owns coaching experience at Crown, Mount Senario, Greenville, Taylor, Northern State and Miami (Ohio). He is a 1983 graduate of Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma, Wash., where he played collegiate football for the Division III Lutes.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Saturday's matchup at Dome Day marks the second all-time meeting between Eureka and Northwestern in football. The Red Devils cruised to a 40-14 win last year at McKinzie Field in the inaugural meeting of the series.
ABOUT DOME DAY
The UMAC will host its 12th annual Dome Day at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn. beginning Friday at 4 p.m. when Martin Luther takes on MacMurray. All 10 UMAC teams will participate in the two-day event at the NFL venue that is scheduled to conclude with Saturday night's matchup between Crown and Westminster at 7 p.m.
The Red Devils have had mixed results in their previous two visits to Dome Day. Eureka rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat St. Scholastica, 21-20, in its first visit to Dome Day on Oct. 30, 2009. Martin Luther handed the Red Devils their first loss at the event on Oct. 30, 2010, a 52-13 decision.
Northwestern joins Martin Luther and Crown as the only three schools to have participated in all 11 of the previous events inside the dome. The Eagles are 8-3 all-time at the event, but have lost two in a row since 2009.
A PLETHORA OF ONLINE OPTIONS
Eureka fans unable to travel on Saturday will be able to follow the action online free of charge. The official UMAC website (umacathletics.com) is offering live video, live statistics and a live chat during all five contests of the event on Friday and Saturday. Fans are encouraged to visit the "2011 Dome Day Info" link at the football page on umacathletics.com to gain access to all of the online options.
As always, Eureka fans are encouraged to follow the Red Devils on Twitter (twitter.com/eurekareddevils) and Facebook (facebook.com/eurekareddevils) to receive in-game updates.
NATIONAL AWARD FOR SCHMIDGALL
Another week against UMAC competition brought another career-best performance for Eureka senior wide receiver Wes Schmidgall.
The 6-foot-1 Schmidgall hauled in 18 catches for 273 yards and three touchdowns in the Red Devils' game against Greenville to be named to the D3Football.com national Team of the Week.
The D3Football.com Team of the Week, presented by Scoutware, recognizes the top player at each position from the previous week. The website, which has covered NCAA Division III football on a national basis for nearly two decades, received 105 nominations for the 22 spots on the team.
Schmidgall's 273 receiving yards were the second-most on record by a Eureka receiver since 1991. Current head coach Kurt Barth holds the single-season school record for receiving yards with 289 at Lakeland on Nov. 5, 1994.
UMAC AWARD FOR SCHMIDGALL
In addition to his national award from D3Football.com, Schimdgall was chosen as the UMAC Offensive Player of the Week. The weekly award from the league marks the second of Schimdgall's career, as he previously was named UMAC South Division Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 27, 2009.
JEFFERSON RECOGNIZED AGAIN
For the second time this season, junior punter Jordan Jefferson was named UMAC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts against Greenville. He averaged a season-best 41.6 yards on seven punts.
Jefferson also played a pivotal role on Eureka's kickoff unit, recovering a successful onside kick in the fourth quarter that led to Eureka's final touchdown drive of the day. Jefferson, who ranks second among UMAC punters with a season average of 38.8 yards per kick, previously earned UMAC Special Teams Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 20, 2011.
DURLEY SHINES, TOO
While Schimdgall earned all of Eureka's offensive awards from D3Football.com and the UMAC, EC junior quarterback Sam Durley also delivered an outstanding offensive performance last Saturday.
Durley's 35 completions broke his own single-game school record of 28 set last month at Presentation. Additionally, Durley threw for 465 yards against the Panthers, the third-highest single-game total on record in program history.
BROKEN HAND? NO PROBLEM
Despite playing with his broken hand in a cast for the second consecutive week, Eureka senior free safety Mike Minehan delivered his best performance of the 2011 season last Saturday against Greenville.
Minehan, who broke his hand while returning a punt at Martin Luther on Oct. 8, made a game-high 19 tackles last week. Nine of his tackles were solo stops. He also broke up a pair of passes from GC quarterback Brendan Chambers. His 19-tackle performance was a season-high and the most by a Eureka defender since Minehan made 24 stops against Minnesota-Morris on Sept. 25, 2010.
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.