After starting the season with five straight defeats, the Buena Vista football team has its eyes set on closing out its 2012 season this Saturday at the University of Dubuque (4-5, 3-3 IIAC) with its fifth straight win and a chance to finish in second-place outright in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) standings.
The Beavers put themselves in position for the strong finish by hanging on for a thrilling 29-27 home victory on Senior Day against Simpson College last week.
“The win streak has kept the focus and the attention of our players each week,” says head coach Jay Anderson. “The second half of this season has just flown by.”
The game against the Storm was the final career contest inside of J. Leslie Rollins Stadium for 12 BVU players, and Anderson says they all stepped up and contributed some way in the win.
“It was a great thing to send our seniors out that way,” he adds. “They all really wanted it, and they all stepped up and chipped in.”
BVU finished just shy of 400 total yards of offense in that contest which included 253 yards on the ground. Senior running back John Hill (Webster City, Iowa/Webster City) was right in the mix, chalking up a game and career-high 131 yards, including a 37-yard TD run early on. Sophomore Dylan Barrett (Harlan, Iowa/Harlan) added 102 yards and a score, including the eventual game-clinching 80-yard touchdown burst with nearly two minutes left.
Those two are going to be called upon this week to help keep the chains moving against a Spartans defense which is allowing nearly 180 yards rushing per contest.
“We’re going to need to continue having success running the football,” says Anderson. “It’s a big key because it keeps the clock moving, and it also wears down a defense a lot faster when you’re able to run the ball up and down the field.”
Hill, who surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards last week and is ranked fourth during conference play in rushing yards per game, takes the field for the final time needing 128 yards to match his career-high in rushing yards for a season (810) set last season. Barrett, meanwhile, leads the team in rushing touchdowns for the year (7) and is tied for the third-most among the IIAC leaders. He’s also become a threat returning kicks and earned IIAC Special Teams Performer of the Week honors following a performance against Simpson that saw him average nearly 26 yards per return on four kick-offs.
In addition to the running game, sophomore quarterback Bobby Brown and the passing game continues to be a threat as of late. Over the last four games, Brown has completed nearly 57 percent of his attempts for 887 yards and six scores. Seniors Logan Lehrkamp (Carroll, Iowa/Carroll), Bo Darrow (Glenwood, Iowa/Glenwood) and Gunnar Wyatt (Story City, Iowa/Roland Story) have all stepped up their games during that same span, combining for 41 of the 55 completions. They will all be called on to step up even more while facing a Dubuque defense which is allowing a league-low 200 yards per game through the air in league play.
Trevor Runkle has registered 85 total stops to help lead the way for Dubuque, defensively, as Vincent Whipple is next with 61 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, while intercepting a team-leading three passes. Marice Hill has a team-best nine tackles for a loss, including three sacks.
On the other side of the ball, BVU will be going up against who Anderson feels is the best quarterback in the league. Senior Wyatt Hanus leads a Spartan passing attack by averaging a league-high 324 yards per game with his arm. For the year, he’s totaled over 2,900 yards, 26 touchdowns and has been intercepted just five times.
It’ll be the second straight week the Beavers have faced a strong passing team, but Anderson says this week’s match-up will be a little different.
“Unlike Simpson, Dubuque will try and beat you a little bit more with the deep ball,” he says. “Simpson is a team that uses more of the medium range passes, but Dubuque, who I feel has the best quarterback in the league, will throw more route combinations at you, compared to just the deep one-on-one match-ups down field.”
Simpson has the top-two pass catchers in the league this season, but Dubuque is right behind with the next two. Sean Anderson comes in averaging right at seven receptions per game this season for an average of 88 yards, while Austin Morgan is hauling in 6.9 per game and averaging 68 yards.
The Beavers broke up six passes and had four total sacks against Simpson. Defensive backs Mack Snelling (Lynwood, Ill./Bloom) and Collin Mann (Logan, Iowa/Logan-Magnolia) each registered career-high 10 tackles. Snelling had two stops for a loss, while Mann broke up one pass. Strong safety Kyle Arnold (Johnston, Iowa/Johnston) was right behind with six stops, one pass break up and also blocked a field goal.
For the year, senior linebacker Nick Plueger (Le Mars, Iowa/Le Mars) has helped led the charge, while registering an NCAA Division III-best 14.1 tackles per game. Junior Brady Randall (Storm Lake, Iowa/Alta), who came up with a game-high 15 tackles against the Storm and earned Defensive Performer of the Week accolades by the IIAC, is ranked third in the league and 24th nationally with 11 tackles per outing.
The Spartans have won back-to-back games against Simpson and Loras, respectively, to get back within a win of .500 overall heading into Saturday’s match-up. Those two wins come right after dropping back-to-back three-point contests to Coe and Wartburg.
Anderson says a win over Dubuque would be a nice way for his team and coaching staff to head into the offseason.
“We’re hitting the road recruiting starting next week, so a win would be some nice momentum for us as a staff going into that,” he says. “It’ll also be a great way for our guys to head into the offseason. They’ve stuck with it all season long.”
Kick-off at Chalmers Field is schedule for 12:00pm. A local radio broadcast will be available on 97.5FM KBVU with a video web stream at http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/bvu.portal#.
Check out photos of our student-athletes in action in the Beaver sports photo galleries.