Wittenberg, DePauw play for first place in NCAC on Saturday

Wittenberg routed Oberlin last week on the road and returns home for big game in Springfield

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Wittenberg University’s football stadium opened 100 years ago this week — Oct. 20, 1923, to be exact. It cost $100,000 to build, seated 4,980 and was the second-largest stadium in Ohio.

“Wittenberg has the best football field in the state,” coach Ernie Godfrey said then.

The governor of Ohio, Vic Donahey, attended the first game between Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan. The former governor, James M. Cox, was also there. The game was even broadcast on a local radio station, WNAP, a novelty at that time.

“Grid game to be the main attraction,” read the Springfield Daily News headline.

There will be another main attraction Saturday at the stadium that has been called Edwards-Maurer Field, in honor of Hall of Fame coaches Bill Edwards and Dave Maurer, since 1993. Wittenberg (5-1, 4-0) will play DePauw (7-0, 5-0) at 2 p.m. One of the Tigers will take over sole possession of first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

“I say it all the time,” Wittenberg coach Jim Collins said Thursday. “This is what you work all the offseason and preseason for and why you show up every day — because of having the opportunity to play in big games like this. We relish the opportunity to be where we are. I think our guys have had, so far, a great week of practice. The excitement of a big game is always an energizer.”

Wittenberg beat No. 25 DePauw 30-7 in Greencastle, Ind., last season. DePauw then won its last four games to finish alone in first place with a 7-1 mark, while Wittenberg lost three of its last four NCAC games to finish 4-4. DePauw has won the last two NCAC championships outright.

Wittenberg picked off DePauw quarterback Nathan McCahill four times in the game last season. Garrett Gross ran for 131 yards for Wittenberg, and Bryce Anderson gained 70 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“I think there’s there are things that you look at from last year,” Collins said, “and you can build on those things. Our team, having having won that game, sees what we’re capable of when we play really well. I’m sure on the other hand, they’ve got the same mentality after last year’s game. They want to come in here and play with that motivation. There a lot of things that are different about our team from this year, so I don’t think you go solely off of what happened last year. This is a new season with new players in a lot of spots, but obviously, the opponent’s a good opponent, and we understand what’s at stake and how well we have to play.”

McCahill, now a junior, has 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions in seven games this season. DePauw’s strength is its defense, which has allowed 5.4 points per game in NCAC play.

“They’re very tough to run the football against,” Collins said. “They’ve got speed at every position. They’re going to rush the passer really well. They do a good job in the secondary or preventing big plays. We’ve got to execute on offense and play a really physical brand and play hard because that’s what they’re going to bring to the table on every play. Offensively, they’ve got guys that can make big plays. We’ve got to play very sound in the secondary and prevent the big play and, if they get in the red zone, do a great job of tightening up.”

DePauw opened the season with a 33-21 victory at home against Rose-Hulman (4-2, 3-0), which is tied for first place in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. DePauw then routed Anderson 68-19 and has mostly dominated five NCAC opponents. Its closest game was against Denison, which it led 17-0 before giving up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Wittenberg enters this game after earning its most lopsided victory since 2007. It won 72-7 last week at Oberlin.

“You’re always a little concerned with how you’re going to play on the road with a big game looming,” Collins said. “Our guys were mature. They prepared all week. They were ready to play. There was a lot of energy. From the opening kickoff until the game ended, every single snap we played hard and played with the intention of building on that for this week.”

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