Coach Joe Fincham joked about keeping his Wittenberg Tigers football team in Indiana next week, saving some gas mileage on the trip home between games against DePauw and Wabash.
Wittenberg has so many former members of the coaching staff in Indianapolis at Marian College, it could have found enough couches. However, it will be business as usual for the Tigers — that means two bus trips and two hotel stays — though it’s the first time Wittenberg has played back-to-back games at the Indiana schools.
“We’re creatures of habit,” Fincham said Wednesday. “We’re really not changing that much.”
In the first game of the road swing, No. 13 Wittenberg (6-0, 5-0) plays No. 25 DePauw (6-0, 5-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Greencastle, Ind., with first place on the line in the North Coast Athletic Conference. The second game, a week later at Wabash (5-1, 4-1) in Crawfordsville, Ind., will be just as important.
If Wittenberg can win both games, it will be in the driver’s seat in the NCAC standings because its last two games are at home against Ohio Wesleyan (3-3, 3-2) and Wooster (4-2, 3-2).
“I think the mindset of the team is that they know they’ve got a tough game in front of them,” Fincham said. “When you look at DePauw, the first thing that stands out about them is they’re so well coached. You have to beat a DePauw team. They’re not going to give it away. They play a lot of juniors and seniors. Their offense is particularly senior laden. They present a lot of schematic issues for you. They don’t do a bazillion different things. They do what they do. But the things they do complement themselves. It puts strain on your systems.”
DePauw ranks third in the NCAC in scoring offense (38.3 points per game) and scoring defense (23.2). Wittenberg leads the conference in both categories. Wittenberg averages 39.7 points per game and allows 11.5.
DePauw has one of the top receivers in the league. Andy Hunt leads the conference with eight touchdown catches. His 83-yard touchdown against Wittenberg two years ago was the back-breaking play, Fincham said, in Wittenberg’s 35-30 loss in Greencastle.
Hunt’s brother Matt was the quarterback then but played his last season a year ago. DePauw began the season with junior Matt Labus as the starting quarterback but lost him to injury.
The new quarterback is senior Jake Lasky, who completed 8 of 17 passes for 119 yards with two touchdowns last week in a 26-17 victory over Denison.
“It’s always a blow to a team when you lose your quarterback,” Fincham said. “Now all of a sudden, they’re bringing in a senior. When they started the season off, it was an open battle for the job. Labus was not crowned the guy coming out of the spring, so they must have thought a lot about the guy they’re playing now. The difference is when the next quarterback comes in it kind of changes your system somewhat to tailor to his strengths. He throws a great deep ball. He can honk it up in there. DePauw has a history of running the quarterback and using him a lot, and they’ve certainly used this one.”