Wittenberg Tigers coach Joe Fincham ran down a list of stats with his team after practice Wednesday. Some were good. Some were not. Only one stat really mattered: his team is 4-0.
Wittenberg leads the North Coast Athletic Conference in scoring defense (9.2 points per game) but ranks seventh in scoring offense (32.5). It has the best turnover margin (plus six) but ranks eighth in punt return average (4.6 yards per return) and ninth in kickoff return average (16.8).
In short, the Tigers have plenty of reasons to feel good about what they’ve done and just as many reasons to think they can improve. They jumped from No. 15 to No. 14 in the D3Football.com poll this week and play at Hiram (1-3, 0-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Wittenberg has never lost to Hiram in NCAC play. It is 16-0 against the Terriers since 2000. However, Hiram led Wabash 21-16 at the start of the fourth quarter on Sept. 23 in Crawfordsville, Ind., before losing 25-21. That’s as good a reason for Wittenberg to take this game as seriously as any.
“Hiram is an interesting case,” Fincham said. “They’ve scored on everybody. The least amount of points they’ve scored is 21. They’ve hung around. Wabash had to convert a fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter, and they converted it but the guy literally broke three tackles before he got to the first-down marker. I’m not saying (Hiram) should have (won), but they could have.”
Hiram ranks fourth in the NCAC in scoring offense (38.o) but ninth in defense (44.5). After scaring Wabash, the Terriers went on the road and lost 57-40 to Allegheny. DePauw trounced Hiram 55-28 on Sept. 16. Hiram’s only victory came against winless Earlham, 63-41 on Sept. 9.
The Tigers recorded their best NCAC win of the season to this point last weekend, beating Denison 28-12 in Springfield.
Jake Kennedy threw two touchdown passes to Liam Duncan. DeShawn Sarley rushed for 73 yards. Jeff Tiffner led the receivers with five catches for 94 yards. Safety Jay Mastin intercepted two passes.
“I certainly liked the way we started offensively,” Fincham said. “I didn’t like the way we finished. I liked our defensive performance, although we lost a lot of first downs. We were in second-and-4 a bunch of times defensively. While we gave up some yards and some field position, we found a way to make some stops. Some of our specials teams still have a long ways to go. But I’m certainly pleased with how the game ended. If you had told me it was going to be 28-6 with just a few minutes left in the game, I would have said, ‘Sold.’”