GAME PREVIEW: Wisconsin Lutheran @ Olivet
Wisconsin Lutheran (0-1, 0-0 NACC)
Olivet (1-0, 0-0 MIAA)
Game No. 2 | Saturday, September 14, 2013 | 12 p.m.
Cutler Field (2,600) | Olivet, Mich.
MILWAUKEE – After a hard-fought 31-24 loss in last Saturday's season opener against Ripon, the Wisconsin Lutheran College football team will look to rebound when it travels to Olivet (Mich.) Saturday to take on the Comets for the second straight year. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. CST at Cutler Field. WLC defeated Olivet 38-14 at home a season ago.
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.
SERIES HISTORY: Wisconsin Lutheran and Olivet are no strangers to each other as they played regularly in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) from 2002-2007. The Warriors and Comets have met seven previous times, with Olivet owning a 5-2 advantage in the all-time series. WLC had lost four straight in the series before beating the Comets 38-14 at Raabe Stadium September 8, 2012. Senior wide receiver Josh Stodola set a school record with 12 receptions, piling up 203 yards and a touchdown to lead the WLC offense. Donavin Tucker gained 134 total yards (89 rushing, 45 receiving) and Mike Reeves ran for 44 yards and a score. Eric Zeitler anchored the Warriors defense with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Wisconsin Lutheran outgained Olivet 493 (321 passing, 172 rushing) to 219 (113 passing, 106 rushing).
09/08/12 - @ WLC 38, Olivet 14
09/29/07 - @ Olivet 62, WLC 2
09/30/06 - Olivet 19, @ WLC 6
11/05/05 - Olivet 28, @ WLC 14
11/06/04 - @ Olivet 52, WLC 28
11/15/03 - @ WLC 45, Olivet 33
11/16/02 - @ Olivet 43, WLC 29
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: The Comets are led by second-year head coach Dan Pifer. Pifer came to Olivet from Trine (Ind.), where he served as the team's offensive, special teams, and recruiting coordinator for six seasons. Olivet went 0-10 in his debut season in 2012, but Pifer collected his first win as head coach in Olivet's 48-27 season-opening win over Wilmington (Ohio) last Saturday.
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 COMETS FLASHBACK: Olivet went 0-10 last season for the third time in four years. The Comets lost two close home games by six points apiece and the rest of their losses were by 10 points or more. Olivet was held to 13.5 points per game while allowing 32.7. The Comets were outgained by an average of 369.6 to 246.1 yards per game. They ranked 228th out of 241 Division III programs in total offense. The Comets haven't finished above .500 since the 2007 season when they went 6-5 overall and 6-1 in conference play.
WISCONSIN LUTHERAN UPDATE: WLC dropped its season opener 31-24 to Ripon at Raabe Stadium last Saturday. Junior running back Mike Reeves (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Hoffman Estates) led the Warriors offense with 12 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard touchdown scamper. Senior quarterback Drew Dyrssen (Vista, Calif./California Lutheran) was 17-for-32 with 207 passing yards and an interception. Senior wide receiver Matt Gordy (Macomb, Ill./Macomb) made five catches for 79 yards, while sophomore Mitch Skarban (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran) added 69 yards on six grabs. Senior safety Sam Dunham (Winneconne, Wis./Winneconne) led the WLC defense with 13 tackles while junior linebacker Jestin Heimbruch (Manawa, Wis./Little Wolf) and junior defensive lineman Luke Sebald (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Wisconsin Lutheran) finished with 11 tackles apiece. Heimbruch also forced a fumble and junior linebacker Luke Hardginski (Menasha, Wis./Menasha) recovered both Ripon fumbles, with the Warriors converting both turnovers into touchdowns. Ripon (1-0) piled up 466 yards of offense compared to 341 for the Warriors. There was also a wide gap in time of possession as Ripon held the ball for 41:35. Third down conversions were a key factor in the game with Ripon converting 10 of its 17 third downs.
SCOUTING OLIVET: The Comets snapped a 14-game losing streak with a 48-27 win at Wilmington last Saturday. It was the program's first win since October 15, 2011 over Kalamazoo, and the first win for head coach Dan Pifer. Sophomore quarterback Braden Black broke single-game school records for touchdown passes (six) and total offensive yards (378), and tied the single-game passing yards record (349). Freshman wide receiver Dan Hugan caught five passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, including a 61-yard touchdown reception. The Comets defense forced four turnovers. Olivet returns 18 starters from the 2012 team.
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. Olivet (29 points) was picked to finish fifth in the seven-team Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). Defending MIAA champion Adrian was picked to repeat as league champions.
NEXT WEEK: Wisconsin Lutheran travels to Hope (Mich.) for a 12 p.m. non-conference kickoff next Saturday. Hope is 1-0 on the season entering this week's home matchup against Millikin. Olivet will host another NACC opponent next Saturday when Rockford comes to visit for a 12 p.m. kickoff.
THIS 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.
NEXT WEEK'S NACC GAMES:
Wisconsin Lutheran @ Hope, 12 p.m.
Benedictine @ Kalamazoo, 12 p.m.
Lakeland @ Alma, 12 p.m.
Rockford @ Olivet, 12 p.m.
Concordia Wisconsin @ Trine, 12 p.m.
Aurora @ Albion, 12:30 p.m.
Concordia Chicago @ Adrian, 4 p.m.