The No. 8 Wittenberg Tigers sit four victories away from a rare feat: back-to-back 10-0 seasons, three straight outright North Coast Athletic Conference championships and a regular-season winning streak that would reach 24 games if they beat DePauw, Wabash, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster.
It’s all so close but so far. Even this late in the season, the players don’t want to focus on the big picture.
“It’s definitely something that’s in the back of our heads, but we do it one week at a time, one practice at a time,” senior center Tommy Gerhard said. “We start on Sunday when we lift. We do film. Then the next day we have our day off and watch a lot of film. Then on Tuesday we have practice and stay locked in and stay focused on the one team in front of us. Don’t look forward and don’t look back.”
» WITT HOOPS: Croci’s team gets back to work after 27-3 season
A look forward to Oct. 27 and a home game against Wabash, Wittenberg’s biggest NCAC rival for years, would be a mistake this week because the conference’s other Indiana team, DePauw, visits Edwards-Maurer Field first. The Tigers and Tigers play at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Wittenberg (6-0, 5-0) is 5-1 against DePauw (3-3, 3-2) since DePauw joined the NCAC in 2012. Wittenberg won 52-6 last season in Greencastle, Ind.
However, DePauw showed it’s dangerous last week, taking a 12-6 lead deep into the fourth quarter at Denison before giving up two late touchdowns and losing 20-12.
“The first thing you see is they’re just killing the line of scrimmage defensively,” Wittenberg coach Joe Fincham said. “They’re like fourth in the country in rush defense. They’re really good.”
DePauw allows 39 rushing yards per game but 270.5 passing yards per game, leading the conference in the first statistic and ranking last in the second.
DePauw also lost its starting quarterback, Matt Labus, to a torn ACL. He suffered the injury in the season opener, ending his career. It was the same knee he injured last season. He missed the last six games, including the loss to Wittenberg.
Wittenberg returns to action after a 41-14 victory at Allegheny. The Tigers broke open a close game with a 31-0 run in the first 18 minutes of the second half.
“I like the way our defense played,” Fincham said. “They gave up only two drives against a very good Division III quarterback, a very good D-III running back and a very explosive receiver who we held to less than 70 yards of total offense. I was excited about that. I thought once it got to a point where they were a little one-dimensional, our defensive line was able to create pressure, which we had not been able to do the last couple of weeks.”