Wittenberg players want to get 200th win for Fincham on Saturday

9:27 a.m. Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 Sports
Wittenberg head coach Joe Fincham, left, talks to his staff in the press box on a cell phone during a game against Carnegie-Mellon on Oct. 24 at Edwards-Maurer Field. The team’s normal headsets weren’t working that day. At right is quarterback Aaron Huffman. Staff photo by David Jablonski

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.”

RELATED: Touchdown a surreal moment for Bailey

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).

Wittenberg's Bryce Bailey on winning TD against Wabash

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.”

RELATED: Wittenberg rallies to beat Wabash

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.”