MONMOUTH, Ill. – It’s a key early-season matchup Saturday when Monmouth College (4-1, 1-0 MWC) hosts Illinois College (2-3, 1-0 MWC) for a 1 p.m. kickoff at April Zorn Memorial Stadium.
Now in Week 2 of the Midwest Conference divisional schedule, the Fighting Scots and Blueboys meet head-to-head after wins last weekend in a battle to stay atop the South Division standings. Each will have an eye westward where Lake Forest – also 1-0 in divisional play – visits Cornell.
The Fighting Scots posted their third straight shutout in a 49-0 blanking of Grinnell last weekend while the Blueboys outgunned Cornell 42-26 last Saturday. Monmouth fought through a slow start to put 21 points on the board in the second quarter en route to the win. Illinois College was locked in a duel with Cornell until three unanswered TDs opened the gap.
“IC can run, but their quarterback can throw extremely well,” reported Braun. “He’s playing at a very high level right now and making great decisions. Their receivers are athletic and can create problems.”
Nearing full strength on the defensive side with the return in recent weeks of junior linemen Lamar Watson and Thomas Lesniewski, the Scots have been adept at creating problems for the opponents. The Scots have allowed less than 90 yards of offense in their last three games, including minus 14 rushing yards to Macalaester three weeks ago, but they’ll need to up their pass defense as the Blueboys average nearly 260 passing yards per game compared to just 61 yards on the ground.
“Getting pressure on IC’s quarterback will be a very important part of the game,” said Braun. “It’s good to have Lamar and Thomas healthy and in that role. We’re really going to be tested. We’ll find out just how good we are this weekend.”
Monmouth’s offense has been good, averaging nearly 30 points per game but, like the defense, is still a “work in progress,” according to Braun. DeAndre Wright rushed for four TDs last weekend and his nearly 400 yards this season leads a stable of more than a dozen ball carriers. The Scots are equally deep in the receiver corps where no one has amassed more than 300 yards, but the 12 receivers have hauled in nearly half the team’s touchdowns.
“The whole key for our offense is up front,” said Braun. “When our guys can get a hat-on-a-hat we’re pretty good. We’ll get in trouble if we miss blocks. We’ve got to get off to a fast start this week.”
Monmouth was able to overcome a slow start last weekend, but Braun is concerned a slow start this week could have ill effects late in the game, especially with the Blueboys quick-score capabilities.
“Hopefully, we learned from last week that we need to get up early,” said Braun. “You never feel like any lead is safe, but especially when you’re facing an offense like this one. They’re a big play offense and can strike in a hurry. We’ve got to play the full four quarters.”