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DePauw hosts 1st home playoff game today

Saturday, November 20, 2010

(Photo)
DePauw Michael Engle will look to lead the Tigers past Trine today at noon. [Order this photo]
GREENCASTLE -- DePauw plays the first post-season home game in its storied football history today, meeting undefeated Trine in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs at Blackstock Stadium. The opening kickoff is scheduled for noon.

Tigers' coach Robby Long doesn't want his team to settle for being part of that history. He wants them to deliver DePauw's first post-season victory and go one step beyond where the program was a year ago. The Tigers, a veteran team, fell to Thomas More, 49-39, in their initial Division III appearance.

"Hopefully, we'll perform better in the playoffs than a year ago," Long said. "We're a year older and we've got that experience now. The great thing about doing something that has never been done is to keep doing it. It means even more to win that (Trine) game, and be the first DePauw team to make it to the second round.

"We want to keep this group of guys together as long as we can. That's been my rallying cry. I want to keep the players motivated to do more. We've been talking about it for about six weeks. We want to make the most of this season and extend it as long as we can. This is a special group, a special team, and we want to keep it together."

DePauw put together nine straight victories before losing 47-0 last week to Wabash in the Monon Bell game. The Tigers have put that game behind them.

"I'm proud of the fact this team took care of business and earned the right to be playing this week," Long said. "Good, bad or ugly, no matter what happens, you've got to move on to the next week. We're not happy with the way we played last Saturday and that's in the past. We've got the focus on Trine.

"We've had a great week in practice. We've got to show up ready to play. It's one thing to prepare to win, it's another to compete and win. Trine is a great football team, a great football program."

The Thunder (10-0), from Angola, has reached the Division III playoffs three straight seasons. They're ranked No. 8 nationally in the American Football Coaches poll and 12th in the D3football.com rankings.

The Tigers (9-1) dropped out of the D3.com poll this week. They had been No. 21. They also fell out of the top 25 in the AFCA poll, down to 29th with 21 votes.

But the NCAA judged DePauw's undefeated season in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Association to be worthy of a No. 3 seed in one of four eight-team brackets and Trine, winner of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, was awarded a No. 6 seed. The higher seed earned DePauw, which began playing football in 1884 and has played continuously since 1889, the home game.

Trine has the MIAA's two-time Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Eric Watt, a senior from South Newton High in Kentland, Ind., and the MIAA's Defensive Player of the Year in defensive back Aaron Selking, who had seven interceptions.

Watt, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, passed for 2,258 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. He threw only five interceptions in 226 passes, completing 151.

"Trine is a veteran team, well coached and they don't beat themselves," Long said. "Watt is kind of the ringleader of that. They're kind of a zone read team with a little bit of option in the running game and he does a good job where to give it or to keep it. Their offensive line gets off the football.

"Their quarterback deserves to be the Conference Player of the Year. He takes care of the football, runs the offense. They have balance and a lot of that balance comes from his patience. He's not afraid to take what the defense gives him and they have a good stable of running backs capable of hurting you."

Trine averages 268.1 yards rushing and 247.3 passing per game.

DePauw has relied on the pass, with senior quarterback Michael Engle throwing for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns. He's completed 252 of 382 with 12 interceptions.

The Tigers have an outstanding receiving corps led by All-American Alex Koors, who has 76 catches for 1,080 yards, a 14.2 average, and 15 touchdowns. Brayden Dalstrom has 64 receptions and three touchdowns, Nate Evans has 39 catches for 375 yards and four touchdowns and Colin Doran has 27 catches for 358 yards and two touchdowns.

Tailback Derrick Karazsia has rushed for 596 yards on 159 carries, a 3.7 average, and backup Jon Ellis has 400 yards on 112 carries, a 3.6 average, and four touchdowns.

DePauw averages 99.7 yards rushing per game.

"I'm kind of an old school, boring guy who believes that being able to run, being able to stop the run on defense, taking care of the football and playing special teams are the keys to winning games," Long said. "Whatever level you're playing, those are the keys to winning games.

"We try to take advantage of what the defense gives us. We'd gotten the reputation since 2007 that plays with a fullback and tries to run at you. Because of the way people have made adjustments against us, in the last 12 or 14 games we've played, they've tried to take away our strength and we've gone to four- and five-wide receiver sets. But at our core, our heart, we're a running football team. We want to be a 50-50 team that can hurt our opponents either way."