MONMOUTH, Ill. – Week No. 2 for the Monmouth College football team will present a variety of challenges as the Fighting Scots travel to Waverly, Iowa, for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday night against Wartburg College.
Following a narrow 27-20 season-opening win over Hope College last week at April Zorn Memorial Stadium, the Scots readied this week with not only an eye on the Knights and a later start time, but a critical eye on last week’s performance.
“We found some things we need to work on,” said coach Chad Braun. “We were good in stretches and not-so-good in others. We worked on those problem areas in practice this week. You usually see the biggest jump in improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes this week.”
The seventh meeting between the two schools will also be Wartburg’s season opener – the same situation as last year when the Scots picked up their first victory in the series. The Scots came back from a 15-0 first quarter deficit to pull out a 29-22 victory. Braun is expecting another tough battle this year.
“The atmosphere is going to be outstanding,” predicted Braun. “It’s a great setting with a great program. There’s something special about playing a night game. It should be a lot of fun.”
Braun can look to last year’s game for motivation, as well as a scouting report on the Knights and head coach Rick Willis, who has been at the Knights helm for nearly two decades.
“I’ve seen them numerous times over the years,” said Braun, downplaying the lack of any scout film for this season. “It may be their first game, but we do have familiarity of the program and their staff. We don’t rely on the past, but we can point to our comeback win last year for some motivation. Of course, last year will give them motivation, too.”
The Knights return two key cogs from last year’s contest – quarterback Mike Sacia and senior running back Connor Schrader. Sacia threw for nearly 3,000 yards last year as a sophomore and Schrader – a 220-pound back – churned out nearly 700 rushing yards to lead a ground game that averaged nearly 200 yards per game.
The Scots have last year’s 1,000-yard gainer DeAndre Wright again in the backfield and boast a solid defense led by two-time all-conference defensive back Micam Smith and last year’s Midwest Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year Thomas Lesniewski.
“We’ll have to run the ball a bit better than we did last week,” said Braun of the keys to the game after the squad accumulated 174 yards on the ground. “We’ll have to take care of the ball and can’t turn it over like we did last year. Defensively, we need to make them one-dimensional and do offensively what they don’t want to do. Special teams could become a critical part of the game, too. Wartburg is always a tough challenge and I don’t expect anything less this year.”