DePauw University head football coach Tim Rogers isn't letting his team get sucked into the hysteria surrounding the Monon Bell game on Nov. 12. First things first, the Tigers are looking to handle business this week.
"For the first time in a long time, if we win this football game, we're SCAC conference champions," Rogers said. "That hasn't been the situation in a long time. I fail to believe, or give any credence to the fact that our kids could overlook this game."
The DePauw football team travels to Terre Haute Saturday to play Rose-Hulman at 1:30 p.m. A win will ensure the Tigers first Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship in five years. Although many in the community may be focused for the battle for the bell on Nov. 12, the Tigers are concerned about the more immediate future.
"Everything they've worked for comes down to beating Rose-Hulman right now and winning an SCAC title," Rogers said. "And yes, it's important to win the Monon Bell. But there's a succession here, and what comes first is winning the SCAC."
DePauw comes into Saturday's game 6-1 on the season and 4-0 in the SCAC. The Tigers have not lost a game since a 31-26 heartbreaking loss to Wesley College in the first week of the season. Since then, DePauw has been on a tear, outscoring opponents by an average of 22 points per game.
"We've been playing real good football," Rogers said. "Like I've said before, we have real good football players."
The Tigers are currently ranked first in the SCAC in scoring offense and third in total offense, averaging 29 points and 370.1 yards per game. DePauw has the top rushing offense in the SCAC, averaging 225.4 yards on the ground per contest. Running back Jeremiah Marks is second in the SCAC, averaging 98.3 yards per game, and has 12 touchdowns on the season.
"I'm anticipating that they're going to load up the box and force us to throw the football," Rogers said. "That will be the key to our success on offense."
Quarterback Ross Wiethoff has proven a reliable weapon when necessary. Wiethoff is currently first in the SCAC in passing efficiency and fourth in passing, averaging 129 yards per game.
With the Engineers, who are currently 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the SCAC, ranking near the bottom in the SCAC in total defense, the Tigers could have a field day Saturday. Rose-Hulman is giving up an average of 23.9 points and 356.8 yards per game. Sewanee -- the team with the worst scoring offense in the SCAC - beat the Engineers 20-7 Saturday. This compares to DePauw's 34-0 trampling of Sewanee earlier in the season.
However, the Tigers are not coming off their best performance of the season either. DePauw only managed to score 14 points on a Centre defense that gives up an average of 23.4 points and 353.3 points per game. Although it wasn't the prettiest game, Rogers will take the win any day of the week.
"Yeah, I wish we scored 50 points and they only scored 7," he said. "It didn't work out that way, but nonetheless it's a win. And we're going to celebrate a victory around here."
Defensively, other than the Wesley game in the opening week, the Tigers have been near flawless. Big plays last week, including four big plays in a last minute goal-line stand, punctuated a successful season in the making. The DePauw defense is only allowing opponents to score an average of 10.9 points per game.
If the Tigers hold Sewanee to three points or less Saturday, the defense will be allowing an average less than 10 points per game for the season.
"It's to the point now where they're taking a lot of pride in being a great defense." Rogers said. "They take it personal win someone scores on them."
However, DePauw will have a tall task in containing the Rose-Hulman's running back and quarterback combination. Although the Engineers struggle defensively, they average 347.2 yards per game on offense. Quarterback Cameron Hummel is second in the SCAC in passing, averaging 145.1 yards per game, while running back Charlie Key is third in rushing, averaging 93 yards per contest.
"Our defense is focused in on stopping those two guys," Rogers said. "Both of them are very good athletes. They're well coached, they give them an opportunity to succeed, and they're going to make it tough on us."
Rogers knows, just like with every week, the Tigers are going to have to come out and play their best.
"Week in and week out we have to come and give our best because we're getting their best every week," he said. "Nobody lets down against us."