- David Jablonski Staff Writer
Coach Joe Fincham hasn’t told his Wittenberg Tigers he’s on the brink of a milestone. He didn’t have to. They know he’s on the doorstep of his 200th career victory.
Fincham may hit that mark Saturday. No. 12 Wittenberg (8-0, 7-0) plays Ohio Wesleyan (4-4, 4-3) at 1 p.m. at Edwards-Maurer Field. A victory gives the Tigers a share of the North Coast Athletic Conference title and clinches a playoff berth with one game to play. They own a head-to-head tiebreaker over DePauw, the only other team that could finish with one loss.
“It’s going to be a great game,” senior wide receiver Bryce Bailey said. “Coach Fincham’s 200th win is very important to us. We’re going to go out there like it’s a playoff game. We want to make it special for him.”
Fincham would become the 26th NCAA Division III coach to win 200 games. Few have done it with a better winning percentage. He’s 199-43 in 22 seasons. He has won 82.2 percent of his games. That’s the eighth-best percentage in D-III history and the 23rd best in college football history (all divisions).
Of course, Fincham would rather talk about anything else.
“Being a football coach, it’s not a one-man show,” Fincham said. “There are a lot of moving parts. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good coaches here. I’ve been fortunate to work for a lot of good people in administration. But as important as anything else, we’ve had a lot of really good football players through the years. I don’t really look at it as my 200th. I look at it as the program’s 200th in however many years.”
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There’s no guarantee the victory will come Saturday, but past history makes Wittenberg a big favorite. It has won nine straight games against Ohio Wesleyan and 11 straight in Springfield. The Bishops haven’t won at Edwards-Maurer Field since 1990. The Tigers also have won 17 straight regular-season games at home.
What makes the Wittenberg wary of Ohio Wesleyan are its performances against the conference’s other top teams. Ohio Wesleyan beat Wabash 16-13 on the road on Oct. 14 and lost 31-30 at home to DePauw on Sept. 30.
“Anytime you’re playing somebody who’s won in Crawfordsville, that gets your attention,” Fincham said. “They’re a very able team. To beat Wabash at Wabash and to play DePauw to a one-point loss, when they still had their quarterback, they can play. They’re playing really hard on defense. They’re a physical group. They’re bigger up front than they’ve been the last couple years. Their quarterback has certainly matured. He throws a nice ball. I don’t think it’s any secret we haven’t seen a great quarterback in a while. That’s a concern of ours.”