Tigers on verge of .500 record with fast-paced Wooster ahead

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The DePauw defense works on a snap-decision drill at practice on Wednesday in preparation for this weekend's game against the fast-paced offense of the College of Wooster. Defensive coordinator Jay Hood (right) has the defense face him up until the offense is ready to snap the ball. (Banner Graphic/GRANT WIEMAN)

In DePauw's season-opening loss, the Tigers moved the ball well but four times they turned it over inside the opponent's 30-yard line (two interceptions, one fumble, once on downs).

The Tiger shifted personnel since then, working in freshman quarterback Matt Hunt and moving senior Nikko Sansone from wide receiver to running back.

In the six games since, DPU (3-4, 3-3 NCAC) has turned the ball over just six times. That focus on ball security has the team on the brink of a .500 record entering Saturday's home game against Wooster (4-3, 4-2).

Wooster will be among the toughest opponents DePauw has faced since it last lost at Denison on Oct. 5. The Scots play a hurry-up, no huddle offense that goes nonstop. Similar to Oregon, Wooster runs the ball and hustles back to the line before the defense can catch its breath.

"Many people play a no-huddle, but some play a no-huddle and stand around at the line of scrimmage and change the plays," DPU head coach Bill Lynch said, "and some play with a real tempo. Since this is the first team that we've played that does that, it's a big week for us to get ready."

The Tigers have spent the week working with high-tempo drills at practice, including one where the defense faces away from the offense until moments before the ball is snapped. The players are forced to react and make decisions based on formation and a little else.

Getting stops and getting off the field is a focus for the defense, and the offense will have to oblige by sustaining drives of its own.

Since its win streak began, DePauw has found a rhythm and it's taking care of the ball better than it has during the past two seasons.

That doesn't mean ball security is its only focus.

The Tigers regularly take 10-12 shots down the field, with Hunt looking for targets Barry Flynn, Connor Jeffers, J.D. Robinson and others.

Lynch has preached the difficulty of sustaining drives in college football and the importance of finding big plays. They'll need to do both against Wooster on Saturday.

The Scots are scoring 32.4 points per game, 12 more than DePauw.

"We're going to have to score some points, because they've scored points on everybody," Lynch said. "We know we've got to do that, but we've also got to play good defense."

The Tigers' defense has improved dramatically throughout the season, but they'll need to focus on stopping the rushing attack of Wooster, getting off the field and allowing the DPU offense to get points on the board.

The Scots, despite a winning record, have a negative scoring differential this season and have allowed at least 21 points in all but one game this year.

Keeping pace will be key to getting the Tigers to a .500 record, which will set them on a positive note just two weeks before the Monon Bell game.

"We didn't put a number on things when we started because it's a new team and a new group," Lynch said. "I was disappointed with the way we started, but even in some of those loses we could tell we were getting better.

"We've finally got it turned around and we've strung three together. Obviously you want to keep the momentum going, but every week is a new challenge. ... We don't spend a lot of time talking about how this would be four in a row. It's, 'Let's get better and let's get ready to play.'"

DePauw hosts the College of Wooster on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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