Enter Rhodes (3-5, 1-4 SCAC) this afternoon to Blackstock Stadium, and the story doesn't change. Coach Matt Walker pays no attention to the Lynx' sub-.500 record or their one SCAC victory.
"Their record is not even close to an indication of how good they are," Walker said. "We know how athletic they are."
That athleticism is no more apparent anywhere in the lineup than with linebacker Desmond Hendricks, the reigning SCAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. The senior draws high praise from Walker, who calls him a Lawrence Taylor-type of player. Although he plays linebacker, he can also play more of the role of a stand-up defensive end.
It's that uncertainty that makes him dangerous.
"He's one of the best defensive players in the league," Walker said of Hendricks. "He makes it hard to scheme against them because they give him so much freedom."
Hendricks leads the SCAC and ranks sixth in the nation with 17.5 tackles for loss. He also leads the league with 8.5 sacks, which puts him 12th in the country.
Fellow senior Mason Mosby leads the team and ranks second in the nation with 13.9 tackles per game.
Against this unit that's ranked 21st nationally in total defense comes DePauw's 14th-rated passing offense. The Lynx play a disciplined, traditional cover-four scheme. There are no surprises, but it's effective.
"It's simple, but they've taken the approach that they're going to out-execute you," Walker said.
And that's exactly what the DePauw passing attack will try to do. Junior Spud Dick continues to lead the league in passing yards per game at 293.9 and is also climbing the career list at DePauw in several categories. Last week, he set the career record for total offense, with 5,978 yards. His 5,982 passing yards puts him just 53 shy of Jeff Voris' record. Dick also ranks second in career completions and touchdown passes.
At his disposal is an impressive group of athletes at wide receiver. While Alex Koors leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches in spite of having missed a game, the QB has several tempting targets at his disposal. Bryan Mulligan, Brayden Dahlstrom, Chris Gasbarra, Nick Etzcorn and Brad Paus have all caught at least 10 passes this year.
"We have tons of weapons at wide receiver," Walker said. "We have too many weapons not to be throwing it around."
And don't count out the Tiger rushing attack. While the running back corps has struggled with injuries much of the year, freshman Jon Ellis made his return in a big way last week, accounting for 213 total yards and two touchdowns. He is also averaging 3.9 yards per carry and leads the Tigers with three rushing TDs.
While the offense has been no problem for DePauw much of the season, the defense has had its struggles. Like with the running game, this has been partially due to injuries. The SCAC is also a high-scoring league.
"We're putting up really big numbers on offense. We're doing okay on defense," Walker said.
The defense has been the classic "bend-don't-break." They make the big plays and stops when they need them most.
Four Tigers have more than 50 tackles in Ryan Preuss (56), Kyle Sherer (56), Tarren Collins (54) and Marc Hoeppner (51). Michael McNelis has three sacks, while Tyler Doane has 4.5 tackles for loss.
They come up against a Rhodes team that has the opposite problem of DePauw. While the defense is very strong, the offense struggles to put up yards and points. The Lynx rank eight out of nine SCAC teams in scoring offense at 15.6 points per game and last in total offense with 248.2 yards per game.
Once again, though, Walker is taking nothing for granted. He called running back Charles Hoggard a good player with breakaway speed. The senior leads the rushing attack with 71.4 yards per game and five total touchdowns.
The Lynx have struggled to find their way at quarterback, with both Matt Ungashcik and Brett Stoots seeing significant time. Stoots has passed for 738 yards on the season, while Ungashick has thrown for 177.
"Those guys can both throw the ball and get hot at any time," Walker said.
Jake Jackson has caught 17 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, though, the key for DePauw is its continued improvement. While injuries have hurt them this season, they've battled through it to an impressive 6-2 record.
"There's not too many team out there with one two losses. We're excited to be 6-2 and know that we haven't played our best football yet," Walker said.
And even when they aren't close to their best football, Walker knows his team has the ability to stay in a game and find a way to pull out the victory.
"We're getting good at winning these crazy games," he said of last week's 31-28 win at Austin. "It'd be nice to get one where we didn't have to hold our breath at the end."
DePauw and Rhodes kick off at 1 p.m. today at Blackstock Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on WGRE 91.5 FM.