GAME PREVIEW: Ripon @ Wisconsin Lutheran
Ripon (0-0, 0-0 MWC)
Wisconsin Lutheran (0-0, 0-0 NACC)
Game No. 1 | Saturday, September 7, 2013 | 7 p.m.
Raabe Stadium (2,500) | Milwaukee, Wis.
MILWAUKEE - Wisconsin Lutheran College kicksoff its 14th season of intercollegiate football competition Saturday night at Raabe Stadium against the Ripon Red Hawks. This is the fourth consecutive season the Warriors and Red Hawks have started the season against each other, with RC winning two of the first three meetings. The game marks the eighth time that the Warriors have opened their season at home in their 14-year history.
WARRIORS ON THE WEB: Nine of 10 Warriors football games will be webcast live on wlcsports.com with the pregame show beginning 30 minutes prior to kickoff. Scott Warras (play-by-play) and Sam Siemers (color analyst) will call the action from the booth all season long. All games, which are archived back to the 2002 season, are accessible to listeners at wlcsports.com.
SEASON OPENERS: Wisconsin Lutheran is 3-10 all-time in season-opening games. Last season, the Warriors opened the year with a 31-0 shutout win at Ripon. It was the first victory in a season opener for WLC since 2002, when it defeated Lawrence 45-23 at home.
HOME OPENERS: The Warriors enter Saturday's contest with the Red Hawks with a 5-8 all-time record in home-opening games. Last season, WLC defeated Olivet 38-14 in its home opener.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Wisconsin Lutheran will be playing under the lights for the sixth time in its 14-year history Saturday. The Warriors, who are 0-5 all-time in night games, last played under the lights September 3, 2011 against these same Red Hawks at Raabe Stadium. RC defeated WLC by a final score of 42-13.
SERIES HISTORY: WLC and Ripon have squared off each of the past three seasons with the Red Hawks winning two of the three contests. Last season, the Warriors routed the Red Hawks 31-0 on the road. Running back Mike Reeves scampered for 121 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries. Caleb Wolf led WLC with five catches for 80 yards. The Warriors gained 365 total yards while holding Ripon to just 229 total yards, and only 42 passing yards. Besides Ripon, the Warriors have faced only one other opponent from the Midwest Conference during their 13-year history. WLC defeated Lawrence 45-23 at home during the 2002 season.
09/01/12 - WLC 31, @ Ripon 0
09/03/11 - Ripon 42, @ WLC 13
09/04/10 - @ Ripon 20, WLC 10
ROAMING THE SIDELINES: Wisconsin Lutheran is guided by first-year head coach Ben Murphy, the second coach in WLC football history. Murphy takes over for Dr. Dennis Miller, who coached the program for its first 13 years before his retirement following the 2012 season. Miller compiled a 47-82 record in 13 seasons at WLC. Murphy spent the previous five seasons as the Warriors defensive coordinator. The Warriors defense ranked in the top three in the NAC in all five of Murphy's seasons as coordinator, including ranking first in the conference in 2012 and 2009. The WLC defense led NCAA Division III in pass defense a season ago and ranked in the top 10 in total defense, pass efficiency defense, and scoring defense. Murphy was a four-year starter (2001-2004) on the defensive line for WLC and was a two-time All-MIAA selection. Prior to coaching the Warriors, Murphy was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at Division II Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D.
ACROSS THE FIELD: Ron Ernst is in his 23rd season as head coach of the Ripon Red Hawks. Ernst is the winningest coach in Ripon history with a 143-72 record over the past 22 seasons. The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee was the Wisconsin Private College Coach of the Year in 2010 and has had a winning record in 20 of 22 seasons as head coach.
2012 WARRIORS FLASHBACK: The Warriors had their best season in school history, going 7-3 a season ago. Each Warriors win was by 10 points or more as they had two shutout wins. WLC had a balanced attack that averaged 26.6 points per game and 357 yards of total offense per game (176 rushing, 181 passing). The defense surrendered just 13 points per game and 232 yards per contest (109 rushing, 123 passing). Wisconsin Lutheran has finished 5-2 in conference play each of the last two seasons, finishing third in the NAC both times.
2012 RED HAWKS FLASHBACK: Ripon went 5-5 last season, including posting a 5-4 mark in the Midwest Conference. The Red Hawks started 0-4 before winning five of their last six contests. The Red Hawks were very successful in running the football as they led the Midwest Conference with 337 rushing yards per game en route to scoring 31 points per contest. Ripon gave up 32 points per game and 392 yards of offense (173 rushing, 219 passing).
PREVIEWING THE WARRIORS: WLC returns 11 starters from last season's 7-3 squad, six on the offensive side of the ball. The Warriors welcome back 64 letterwinners as they try to build off of the best season in program history. WLC returns its top two running backs from a season ago: junior Mike Reeves (806 yards, six touchdowns) and senior Donavin Tucker (519 yards, five touchdowns). Reeves was a First Team All-NAC Offense selection last season. Last season's second-leading receiver, junior Caleb Wolf (304 yards, one touchdown), is back as a threat in the passing game. A First Team Defense selection in 2012, senior linebacker Eric Zeitler will anchor the defense after finishing tied for second on the team with 64 tackles to go along with three sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
SCOUTING RIPON: Ripon returns 16 starters from a squad that went 5-5 last season. Senior quarterback Tom Sawyer was a Second Team All-MWC selection last season, when he led the team with 1,045 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Returning offensive lineman Tyler Jonas was also a Second Team selection. Luke Morgan returns on defense after making 43 tackles a year ago and being named a conference Honorable Mention in 2012.
IN THE POLLS: Wisconsin Lutheran garnered three first-place votes in the 2013 NACC Preseason Poll and was picked to finish second by the league's head coaches and sports information directors with 85 poll points. Concordia Wisconsin gained 90 points and 10 first-place votes as the Falcons were predicted to win the league. Ripon (54 poll points) was picked to finish sixth in the 11-team Midwest Conference. St. Norbert received 92 poll points and was picked to finish atop the Midwest Conference standings.
NEXT WEEK: Wisconsin Lutheran travels to Olivet (Mich.) for a 12 p.m. non-conference kickoff next Saturday. WLC defeated the Comets 38-14 at home last season. The game will be the first of three straight road games for the Warriors. Ripon plays host to Carroll next week, while Olivet plays at Wilmington (Ohio) this week.
THIS WEEK'S NACC GAMES:
Augsburg @ Concordia Wisconsin, 1 p.m.
Concordia Chicago @ Lake Forest, 1 p.m.
Lakeland @ Carroll, 1 p.m.
Illinois Wesleyan @ Aurora, 1 p.m.
Rockford @ UW-Stevens Point, 6 p.m.
Wheaton (Ill.) at Benedictine, 7 p.m.
Ripon @ Wisconsin Lutheran, 7 p.m.
NEXT WEEK'S NACC GAMES:
Wisconsin Lutheran @ Olivet, 12 p.m.
Malacester @ Concordia Wisconsin, 1 p.m.
Loras @ Rockford, 1 p.m.
Carthage @ Lakeland, 1 p.m.
Chicago @ Concordia Chicago, 1 p.m.
North Park @ Benedictine, 7 p.m.