By Matt Florjancic
Sometimes the best way to earn how to handle adversity is a trial by fire.
Perhaps no one learned that lesson quicker than Otterbein's sophomore quarterback Austin Schlosser.
At the beginning of the season, Schlosser found himself in the back-up role behind 2008 Gagliardi Trophy Finalist Jack Rafferty. However, a potentially season-ending injury to Rafferty gave Schlosser the responsibility of taking over Otterbein's spread-option offense.
"They gave me their full respect," Schlosser said of taking over the huddle. "As soon as I came into the huddle, they didn't talk unless they had something to tell me with the defense and the checks. They gave me all the respect. It was just like being a senior in high school again. They listened and did what they were supposed to do.
"It's basically the same offense that we ran at my high school," he added. "I'm pretty comfortable. Everything's coming together and it's pretty good."
Though Rafferty is not able to play, he is contributing to the team by acting as a mentor to Schlosser. That is something Schlosser has appreciated as he was pressed into action.
"I've been watching Jack and asking him stuff about the offense since he's been hurt," he said. "It's been real important. He's been texting me, calling me and he's been at a couple practices. He's always there at the games telling me stuff to do. He's helping me with checks and what to look for in the defense."
Schlosser took command of the offense against nationally ranked Ohio Northern.
Though he was new to the starting line-up, Schlosser completed 10-of-15 passes for 157 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Schlosser also ran the ball 12 times for 72 yards and one score.
He helped the Cardinals gain 390 yards of total offense.
Schlosser followed up the Ohio Northern game with another solid performance on Hall of Fame Day against Heidelberg.
In the 49-20 home win, Schlosser went 13-of-16 for 183 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. Schlosser netted 96 rush yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns.
Schlosser, who had a hand in five of Otterbein's first six touchdowns against Heidelberg, was named the OAC's Offensive Player of the Week.
"That first game I was in, I was real nervous," Schlosser said. "Everybody just said they had confidence in me. That helped a lot. Just coming out and winning, especially against Ohio Northern, that was really a confidence boost right there.
"It was amazing," he added about the first completion against Ohio Northern. "With the weather conditions that we had, it was pouring rain, muddy. After the first few plays, the nervousness was gone. We had a big run early on in the drive and were moving the ball down the field. It was a good feeling. I felt like I belonged in the offense."
Like a running back who wins the Heisman Trophy, Schlosser is quick to thank his offensive line for their ability to keep him upright and healthy.
"I have a good relationship with the whole offensive line," he said. "We get along real well and last Friday before the game, we went out to eat at O'Charley's (Restaurant). They told me not to worry about anything. They were going to keep everybody off of me and to be comfortable in the pocket.
"So far, they've done exactly what they've said," added Schlosser. "They're a great offensive line. They know exactly what to do against all types of defenses."
After two straight home games, the Cardinals travel to Baldwin-Wallace and Wilmington over the next two weeks. When Otterbein returns home on Oct. 24, it will face archrival and currently the No. 21 team in the D3football.com Top 25 in Capital.
The next four weeks will prepare Otterbein for a tough two-game stretch at the end of the season.
Otterbein travels to Mount Union on Nov. 7 and hosts John Carroll in the regular season finale a week later. Last season, the Cardinals lost 49-20 at home against Mount Union, but rebounded with a 20-17 overtime victory over John Carroll, which helped Otterbein get an at-large bid to the NCAA Playoffs.
"I think we're capable of winning out and going deep into the playoffs," said Schlosser. "Mount's a tough team and I'm sure everybody on our team knows that's going to be our biggest game, but I think they're beatable this year. I've seen them in a couple films that we watched on Ohio Northern and they kind of look like they've got a down year going.
"I know they're undefeated and they're expected to win out, but from what I saw, their offense isn't as strong as it usually is," he concluded. "Mount has 11 seniors playing defense and they're flying around the ball. All the receivers, the running backs and even the offensive linemen, they're playing like All-Americans this year. I'm pretty confident that we can drive right down the field."
News and Notes
With their 38-13 road win over Denison, No. 9 Case Western Reserve (4-0) has now won 25 straight regular season games. The Spartans will go for No. 26 this Saturday night against Wooster at the recently renovated John P. Papp Stadium.
Case senior quarterback Dan Whalen completed 22 of 31 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns against Denison. Whalen has thrown for at least 284 yards and four touchdowns in each of Case's first four games this season.
Saturday was a record-breaking day for Adrian quarterback Mike McGee. The junior broke Adrian's record with 386 passing yards and tied another mark with 27 completions. McGee threw for four touchdowns and helped the Bulldogs open Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play with a 62-15 win over the Kalamazoo Hornets.
Thiel quarterback Willie Bova completed 22 passes for 304 yards in a 24-21 win against Westminster. Bova had an 86-yard touchdown to Brendan Taylor with 1:27 left in the game. The Bova-to-Taylor connection was the second-longest pass play in Thiel history.
Bova was selected as the Presidents' Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in his career. Teammate John Madeline kicked the game-winning field goal from 46 yards away and earned PAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
To say Wittenberg spread the wealth in its 70-7 home win over Hiram may be overstating the obvious. Eight Tigers reached the end zone in the North Coast Athletic Conference. As is the tradition at Wittenberg and many other schools around the country, the cheerleaders do push-ups when their team scores points.
Each of Wittenberg's cheerleaders did 385 push-ups Saturday.
Great Lakes Region Teams in the D3football.com Top 25:
No. 1: Mount Union (OAC): No change following 30-10 home win over Baldwin-Wallace
No. 8: Washington and Jefferson (PAC): Down one spot after 31-10 win against Geneva
No. 10: Case Western Reserve (UAA): Down one spot following 38-13 win over Denison
No. 11: Wabash (NCAC): Up one spot after 37-3 win against Allegheny
No. 13: Otterbein (OAC): No change following 49-20 victory over Heidelberg
No. 18: Ohio Northern (OAC): Down two spots following 37-34 win against Muskingum
No. 21: Capital (OAC): Up one spot after 37-13 win against Marietta
No. 25: Thomas More (PAC): No change following 40-12 win over Bethany
Others Receiving Votes: Trine (MIAA), Wittenberg (NCAC)
Games of the Week
Case Western Reserve (4-0) at Wooster (3-1), Saturday, Oct. 10, 7:00 p.m.: Nothing is more fun to watch than an old-fashioned grudge match and that's what the Wooster-Case game has become to Spartan quarterback Dan Whalen.
In a blog last year, Whalen told a story about his relationship with the Wooster coaches and a promise he made to never lose to the Fighting Scots after a loss his freshman year. Since that time, the Spartans are 2-0 against Wooster.
Both teams are coming off convincing wins last weekend. As mentioned above, the Spartans handily defeated Denison, while the Fighting Scots dismantled Earlham 49-3 on the road.
Mount Union (4-0, 3-0 OAC) at Capital (4-0, 3-0 OAC), Saturday, Oct. 10, 1:30 p.m.: The No. 1 and No. 3 ranked scoring offenses and defenses in the Ohio Athletic Conference will be on display in Bexley. This game may be less about who scores points and more about who can stop the opposing offense.