Things weren't always pretty for DePauw -- the Tigers turned the ball over twice on interceptions and nearly fumbled away several other possessions -- but they managed to stay perfect and become the first team in school history to go 8-0.
"We got win number eight, and I'm very proud of our guys," head coach Robby Long said. "But we've got to take better care of the football. We'll go look at the film, and we'll get it fixed."
Still, there was a lot that went right for the Tigers, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Panthers of Birmingham-Southern came in to Saturday's game averaging 260 yards rushing and just under 40 points per game (37.9), but were held well below both, gaining 179 on the ground and scoring just 23. If you omit a defensive score by BSC in the first quarter, the Tigers' defensive performance was even more impressive.
"Stopping the run is always our first priority as a defense," senior linebacker Ryan Preuss said. "We knew with this team especially that if we could force them to throw, they aren't a very prolific passing team."
Preuss added, however, that is easier said than done against an athletic, speedy team like the Panthers.
"They have a lot of great athletes, and it's almost like another level of competition," he said. "You have to go 100 percent all the time, wrap up and swarm to the ball. We did that pretty well today."
Offensively, DePauw moved the ball well through the air for much of the day but hurt themselves with costly turnovers, including one interception in the first quarter returned 27 yards for a touchdown by BSC's Andrew Shannon that gave the Panthers a 7-3 lead.
But the Tigers got the offense humming the same way they have so many times before -- a big-play connection between seniors quarterback Michael Engle and receiver Alex Koors. This time it was for a 68-yard touchdown, after Koors beautifully played a deep heave from Engle to beat the safety in coverage.
"The ball was wobbling a bit in the wind, and I just tried to mess with the safety by slowing down a bit before going after it," Koors said.
It worked, and that play gave the Tigers a 12-7 lead, which became 22-10 by halftime on the strength of a Jon Ellis touchdown jaunt and an Eric Malm 47-yard field goal. BSC cut the lead to six, 22-16, on its first possession of the second half, but a second Ellis touchdown run with 2:57 remaining in the third stanza again pushed DePauw's lead to two scores.
But DePauw's offense never quite got on track, for various reasons, whether it be breakdowns in pass protection, erratic throws or dropped passes.
"Everyone took their turn making some mistakes today," Long said. "They did some things defensively that we haven't seen from them on film and caused us some problems, and I also think the wind was a bit of a factor out there. But we've got to be better, and the guys know that."
Unable to distance themselves, BSC threatened late after a Walter Arrington touchdown run cut the lead to seven, 30-23, with 4:51 left to play. But on its ensuing possession, DePauw picked up successive first downs to run out the clock and secure a landmark victory for the program.
BSC -- 255
DePauw -- 378
BSC -- 13
DePauw -- 21
DePauw -- Engle, 26-41, 316, 1, 2 int
BSC -- 44-179
DePauw -- 35-62, Ellis 16-78, Karazsia 13-22
DePauw -- Koors 8-148, 1 TD, Dahlstrom 6-42, Evans 4-59, Karazsia 3-32, Branigan 3-21, Doran 1-12, Meek 1-2
Next game: DePauw (8-0, 5-0 SCAC) concludes its conference schedule when it hosts Austin (4-3, 2-2 SCAC) at 1 p.m. Saturday.