Scots, Maroons in Battle of Favorites Saturday for MWC South Division Lead


MONMOUTH, IL (10/31/2019) A possible Midwest Conference football championship could be at stake Saturday when Monmouth College (4-2, 2-0) meets the University of Chicago (4-2, 2-0) in a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Maroons’ field.

Favored in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll to battle for the South Division crown, the teams enter the contest deadlocked with two regular season games to play. Monmouth is coming off a 27-14 win at Cornell while UC had its second bye week last Saturday following a 56-7 win over Cornell two weeks ago.

“That gave Chicago two full weeks to prepare for us,” admitted Braun of the Maroons’ weekend off. “They’ll be extremely prepared for us and ready to go. We’ll have to match that and play a complete game to get a win.”

In viewing the teams’ most recent common opponent – Cornell – the Scots got off to a slow start last week minus four offensive starters, but took advantage of four second-half turnovers to score 27 unanswered points for their fourth straight win. The Maroons were on the opposite end of the spectrum, jumping out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead and never looking back. Like Monmouth, UC is riding a four-game win streak.

The Maroons’ senior quarterback, Marco Cobian, has thrown for nearly 900 yards, completing 66 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns. Six of the TDs have been to 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver Dante Nepa. Mike Martinson has gotten the call most often on the ground, where he’s rushed for more than 400 yards on 63 carries, scoring six times.

Monmouth has been up to the challenge during its current winning streak, picking off 11 passes and holding opponents to just 58 rushing yards per game. Braun is confident in his defense, but readily admits stopping UC will be a challenge.

“They’ve got a really, really good power running game with a very physical offensive line,” warned Braun. “Their quarterback does an extremely good job of making the right read and finding the open man. He’s super-efficient. They go into a game knowing what they want to do offensively. They’ll be tough to defend. We’ll need to make them one-dimensional.”

Monmouth has been tough to defend, too, as the Scots have averaged nearly 30 points a game in their last four games. They’ve often had the benefit of getting the ball on a short field, holding an 18-8 turnover margin.

“Chicago runs a ton of stunts up front,” reported Braun of the Maroons’ defense. “They’re physical, tough and run to the football. All good attributes. This is a big game for both teams, and I’m sure both teams will give it their best.”

While not a winner-take-all competition, the victor will have the inside track to play for the conference championship on Nov. 16 and the NCAA berth that goes with it. Monmouth has either won the league crown or advanced to the title game in each of Braun’s first four seasons.

“Obviously, the team that loses Saturday is probably not going to be playing for the conference title,” admitted Braun. “I don’t look it as a ‘must win.’ We just have to go out and play our best football. I can accept a loss if we played our best and lost to a better team. If we focus on getting better and playing better, the outcome will take care of itself. We won’t put the pressure on winning the game – that’s not the mindset to get guys to play their best. The key for us is to focus on playing to the best of our abilities and see what happens. If we do that, at the end of the day we can hold our heads high and know we gave our best.”

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