Wittenberg can put itself right back in NCAC race by beating DePauw

Wittenberg is 8-2 against DePauw in NCAC play

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Wittenberg can create havoc in the North Coast Athletic Conference football standings this week.

If Wittenberg bounces back from a 42-35 loss to Wabash at home last weekend by winning a 1 p.m. game Saturday at DePauw in Greencastle, Ind., there will be four one-loss teams near the top of the standings and maybe five if Ohio Wesleyan loses at home to Denison.

DePauw, ranked 25th in the D3Football.com poll, stands alone atop the NCAC at 3-0. It’s a half game ahead of Ohio Wesleyan (2-0) and a game ahead of three 2-1 teams: Wittenberg; Denison; and Wabash, which is off this week.

“DePauw has proven why they’re undefeated,” Wittenberg coach Jim Collins said Wednesday. “They’re really efficient and balanced on offense. They’ve got a really good football team. It’s a great opportunity. Two weeks in a row, we’re going to be playing one of the top teams in the conference, and that’s why you come to Wittenberg: to play in big games like this.”

DePauw scored all its points in the fourth quarter and won 17-14 at Wittenberg last season en route to winning the NCAC championship for the first time. In the first full season for coach Brett Dietz, DePauw finished with an 8-1 mark in the NCAC. It then won a Division III playoff game for the first time in school history, beating Rose-Hulman 26-21 in the first round.

Prior to last season, DePauw had not won in Springfield since entering the NCAC in 2012. It lost its first four games at Edwards-Maurer Field and beat Wittenberg once in eight tries — 35-30 in 2015 — from 2012-2019

This season, DePauw is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2017. It beat Rose-Hulman 17-14 in Week 1 and then routed Anderson, Hiram and Wooster by a combined score of 158-0 before beating Denison 17-13 in Granville last week. Denison had won 45-42 at Wabash the previous week.

DePauw quarterback Wally Renie completed 13 of 27 passes for 127 yards against Denison and ran for 115 yards on 16 carries. He threw a 19-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to give DePauw a 17-6 lead. He lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter, giving Denison the ball at its own 16-yard line, but the DePauw defense got the stop to preserve the lead.

DePauw will be the biggest test yet for Wittenberg’s offense. DePauw is tied for fifth in the nation in scoring defense (5.4 points per game).

Wittenberg’s offense did enough to beat Wabash but couldn’t keep up with the Little Giants offense.

“There were a couple of drives in that game that I’d love to have back for us to be able to finish,” Collins said. “But overall we’ve been efficient, and we’ve been able to create some big plays, and that’s what it takes. You’ve got to have a running game. You’ve got to be able to create explosive plays. It doesn’t matter what level. We were able to do that against Wabash. We’re going to need to be able to do it all year long to be able to perform offensively.”

Defensively, Wittenberg slipped to fifth in the NCAC in scoring defense. It’s giving up 33.0 points per game. It’s last in passing defense, allowing 343.5 yards per game thanks in part to Wabash quarterback Liam Thompson throwing for 434 yards.

“Their quarterback had a great day and got the ball in the hands of guys that can make plays,” Collins said, “and he did it so quick. There were times we had a tough time even getting a pass rush. It’s a little bit different scheme this week. But here’s the bottom line, we’ve got to tackle and make some plays on the ball.”

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