October 5, 2011

Monmouth more than Tanney

More news about: Monmouth
Trey Yocum has grown to be a key component of the Monmouth offense, which isn't just about the passing game.
Monmouth photo by Scott Spitzer 

Monmouth’s Alex Tanney didn’t throw the game-winning touchdown pass in the Fighting Scots 10-3 victory over St. Norbert, but as the quarterback, he did something probably just as valuable, using his experience to see something in defense that allowed him to check into the right play.

With the score tied at 3-3 with less than two minutes left in the game, Tanney recognized a lineup St. Norbert used throughout the game to blitz him. At the line of scrimmage, Tanney checked into a power running play, toward the blitz and handed off to running back Trey Yocum.

Yocum had gained just 22 yards all game against one of the stingiest run defenses of Division III football. Yet, Yocum found a hole, bounced off three tacklers and 46 yards later was in the end zone celebrating the game-winning touchdown.

“I couldn’t believe what had just happened,” Yocum said of the play the day after. He has proven to the be a good complement to his preseason All-American quarterback, averaging 118 yards per game this season.

The play, though, shows the value of having a veteran like Tanney on the field. As he continues to bounce back from an injury that kept him out of virtually the entire 2010 season, Tanney said he thinks he’s finally making progress.

“It’s great feeling to be back on the field and so far so good,” said Tanney. “I don’t think I’m where I was before yet but I’m getting there I feel. It feels like our team is progressing and feel like I’m getting more in the groove of things.”

While Tanney believes he still has much to improve on, his stats seem to tell the story that he’s pretty close. He is completing 69.5 percent of his passes over the first five games (123-177) and has thrown 14 touchdown passes against two interceptions.

He has thrown for 1,606 yards per game this season, averaging 321 yards per contest. That has opened things up for Yocum on the ground. Mike Blodgett has been Tanney’s main target, with 49 catches and averaging 140 receiving yards per contest.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through being injured last season,” Tanney said about the lost season in 2010. “You’ve worked with those guys three and four years and you put all the work in during the offseason and you’re hurt.”

When Tanney returned, he faced Wartburg, ranked No. 20, and Monmouth lost to them 35-28. Tanney said it wasn’t the comeback he was hoping for.

“That was hard to go though,” he said. “I played those guys three times and still haven’t beaten them. I’m rooting for them to win their conference and hopefully get another shot at them in the playoffs.”

Before Monmouth can get to that point, they still have five more conference games to play. The good thing is that the Fighting Scots is the last undefeated league team in the Midwest Conference and own their destiny.  The next team is one of the teams right on its heels in second place, Ripon.

Tanney said the emotional high of the St. Norbert win will not get in the way of the preparing for Ripon or anyone else they have to face.

“We have one goal all season and that’s to win a conference championship,” Tanney said. “I think our team is experienced enough to where we have quite a few guys who have been in this situation before and know we can’t take a week off. We always have a battle with Ripon so we’re won’t look past anybody.”

Besides, Tanney said, he knows St. Norbert is just around the corner. He said the Green Knights have earned his respect over the past four seasons.

“It’s always fun playing those guys because you know it’s going to be a good battle,” Tanney said. “I’ve beaten them three out of the four years and glad I don’t have to play them again. They are extremely well coached and have a great coaching staff. You know they’re going to be fast on defense and they were. I don’t think we played the best we could have but that’s the sign of a good team.”

If Monmouth wins out, Tanney said the seniors don’t want to settle for being happy just to make the playoffs.

“We want to make a deeper run,” Tanney said. “Our conference tends to have a bad rap because we haven’t had much success in the playoffs. That’s something the older guys and the seniors have talked about and we want to set up and accomplish that. We want to win the conference, get a good draw and win a couple of games in the playoffs.”

Monmouth has already taken the first step.

Sea change in the CCIW
Illinois Wesleyan (4-0, 1-0 in CCIW) seemed to have been the forgotten team in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, only garnering six votes in the national poll – until last Saturday, when it beat then No. 7-ranked Wheaton (3-1, 0-1) 24-19 in the CCIW opener for both teams. That allowed the Titans to pop into the Top 25 rankings at No. 18 and send the Thunder tumbling down to No. 19. North Central (3-1, 1-0), which started the season at No. 4 before a season-opening loss to Redlands, has moved back up to No. 6, giving the CCIW three teams in the rankings.

A new threat
North Park seemed poised to get its first CCIW win since 2000 after starting the season a rare 3-0. Elmhurst (3-1, 1-0) stopped that talk by halftime, rumbling to a 59-6 victory last week. Running back Scottie Williams raced for 235 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns, while the Bluejays stuffed North Park’s running attack. Elmhurst faces a stiffer challenge this week when it travels to Wheaton to take on a Thunder team that’s probably not very happy right now,

The return of the Grizzlies
After losing to UW-Whitewater, Franklin (4-1, 3-0) has made a return back to the Top 25 rankings at No. 25 with a 35-23 victory over previously undefeated Mount St. Joseph. Franklin faces the last undefeated conference team in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Rose-Hulman (2-2, 2-0) on the road in Terre Haute, Ind. this week. A win there would leave the Grizzlies owning its own destiny and it defends its HCAC title.

Benedictine recovers
Defending Northern Athletic Conference champion Benedictine (2-2, 1-0 in NATHC), who had lost two straight nonconference games going into conference play bounced back to beat one of the teams expected to challenge them, Concordia (Ill.) 43-21. RB John Borsellino rushed for 164 yards on 31 carries and receiver Chris Schultz had 130 yards on five catches.  The Eagles will try not to stumble when it faces the team picked to finish second in the NATHC Aurora (1-3, 0-1). Aurora, though, has struggled this season, losing to Lakeland in its conference opener last week.

Game of the Week
Elmhurst (3-1, 1-0) at Wheaton (3-1, 0-1): It will be interesting to see how much fight Wheaton has in them after the loss to Illinois Wesleyan as the Thunder tries to right the ship. Elmhurst, though, has an opportunity to make a name for itself with a win.

Got a good story?
Play-by-plays, personal tailgate trips and interviews can’t tell the whole story about what’s going on in the Midwest. Did I miss a big stat, a big streak starting – or being snapped? Quirky, funny or unusual story? Drop me an email and let me know. Some of you already have and I’ll be getting to those soon, but you can never have enough fun.

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Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

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