Wittenberg University junior Troy Jones returns an interception during the Tigers’ 45-3 victory over Kenyon at Edwards-Maurer Field in Springfield in 2018. Michael Cooper/Contributed

Senior cornerback a leader for strong Wittenberg defense

Troy Jones

That was the case in Wittenberg’s last game. With DePauw driving for the tying score in the final minute in Greencastle, Ind., Jones intercepted quarterback Chase Andries at the Wittenberg 23-yard line, sealing a 17-10 victory, the Tigers’ third straight since a season-opening 16-8 loss at Washington & Jefferson.

“We did what we had to do,” Jones said Wednesday. “That was the play. I made the play when it came to me. That was a big opportunity, and I know what it meant to the team.”

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The Tigers improved to 3-0 in the North Coast Athletic Conference. They share first place with Wabash. Everyone else has at least one loss.

Wittenberg ranks second in the conference in scoring defense (12.5 points per game) and first in yards allowed (241.8).

“(The defense) is keeping us alive right now,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “For what it’s worth, we’ve had other years where it was the other way around. That’s part of being a team. They’ve gone out and played really well. Offensively, quite frankly, we’ve tried to cash in on the opportunities (the defense) has created for us.”

Jones, a senior cornerback from Bartow High School (Fla.), has played a big role in the defense’s success. He was named to the All-NCAC third last season and was named a third-team preseason All-American this season by D3Football.com. He has 17 tackles and two interceptions in four games.

Jones has overcome injuries to become a major contributor.

“My freshman year, I tore my ACL in Week 4,” he said. “My sophomore year, I hurt my labrum in my shoulder, and that affected me all season. My junior year was the first injury-free season I’ve had here.”

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This past offseason was the first Jones was able to fully participate in offseason conditioning and weightlifting.

“Physically, he’s in a much better position than what he’s been in the past,” Fincham said, “but you’re talking about a guy who’s played a bunch of snaps. He’s been enormous for our defense.”

This week’s game: The Tigers play Allegheny (0-4) at noon Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field. It’s Community Day, and there will be activities for kids starting at 11 a.m. and lasting until 3 p.m. There will be coloring, face painting and much more.

The Gators have lost four games by double digits but led Wabash midway through the third quarter Sept. 21 before losing 48-35.

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“They’re certainly not the Allegheny teams that were coming in here five years ago when they were really struggling,” Fincham said.

The Tigers return to action after their bye week. It was the first time in eight years their bye week didn’t come after the season opener.

“I think it went good,” Fincham said. “We’ve had a number of guys that missed stretches of camp, so it gave them a chance to get back into a situation where it was almost like camp for four days. It wasn’t all the blood and guts that camp is. It was a much more controlled environment, but they got to practice against speed. I feel it helped them right now, so we’ll see how much it helped them come Saturday.”

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