November 23, 2011

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More news about: North Central (Ill.) | Wabash
C.J. Gum
In just nine games this season, Wabash linebacker CJ Gum has 77 total tackles, nine and a half of them for loss.
Wabash athletics photo by Howard Hewitt

By Jason Bailey
for D3sports.com

Nothing slows Wabash senior linebacker CJ Gum, certainly not a piece of yellow fabric.

And Gum responded ferociously after he was flagged for a late hit in the Little Giants’ 38-20 first-round playoff victory over Illinois College. He blew up one run in the backfield, stuffed another at the line of scrimmage and forced a fumble after chasing down a receiver on successive plays.

Gum doesn’t limit his big hits to ballcarriers, later accelerating to knock an offensive lineman on his butt. As the Wabash sideline exploded in cheers, he responded by pulling down his right hand through the brisk air like a conductor sounding a train whistle.

“The ‘Pain Train’ is something we joke about,” said Gum, who sported large swaths of eye black, a buzzed Mohawk and tribal tattoo on his right bicep. “It just has to do with being physical. We take pride in going out there and hitting people.”

There will be plenty of hitting Saturday when Wabash (11-0, 6-0 NCAC) hosts North Central (10-1, 7-1 CCIW) in a second-round battle of conference champions. The Little Giants are limiting opponents to 10.9 points and the Cardinals have allowed 11.1 points per game. Both shut down offenses averaging more than 40 points in the first round, with North Central routing Dubuque 59-13.

The North Central defense has rebounded after giving up 35 points in a season-opening loss to Redlands, allowing only 34 combined points in seven conference games. Head coach John Thorne said the team values its three shutouts, blocking a field goal against a winless North Park team to preserve the feat.

“It’s really, really fun for defensive guys when at the end of the game you can look up there and see an extremely low score or a big zero,” Thorne said. “They have to stay focused every single play because it only takes one play. You make one little mistake, and there can be a score.”

Wabash could be susceptible to mistakes with only three senior starters, but Gum fills an important leadership role — he fittingly stands on the bench during offensive possessions, allowing his teammates to look up to him. The two-time NCAC defensive player of the year directs on-field traffic before the snap, but often takes matters into his own hands. His team-leading 77 tackles are typically bone-crunching affairs.

Scout’s take

Wheaton head coach Mike Swider knows good defenses.

He sent two defensive players to the NFL, plays North Central annually and has regular preseason scrimmages against Wabash. Because the Thunder have lost to Mt. Union six times in the playoffs, it’s high praise for Swider to suggest North Central’s defense is nearing the Purple Power:

“They’ve got depth and they’ve got speed. Every single kid on the team can run. … Here’s the biggest thing that you’ve got to do. You cannot get penalized, because once you get in long yardage, it’s over. So you’ve got to be good on first down, and that’s the critical, critical down. Once they get you in any bad situation, they just overwhelm you. … Those three defensive linemen — (Valente) Garza, (Willie) Hayes and (Peter) Bulandr — they’re fast, they get up field. They’ve got depth. They’re all good, and they all can run. They play with an edge. … They’ve got a good shot [in the playoffs]. When you can play defense and special teams, you’ve got a shot to beat anybody. And that’s what they do. … In our conference, they’ve dominated this year like few have ever dominated.”

The Little Giants rally around those big hits and the “Pain Train” moniker adapted from Reebok commercials showcasing Terry Tate, the office linebacker. In the playoff opener, freshman linebacker Cody Buresh’s blast injured a wide receiver, freshman cornerback Houston Hodges broke up a third-down pass and junior safety Jonathon Koop delivered a punishing blow that drew a questionable penalty for launching.

“We’re playing fast and hitting people,” said Wabash defensive coordinator BJ Hammer, a former Little Giant defensive lineman himself. “I’ll never tell our guys to slow down, but of course we say to play smart.”

North Central boasts speed at every defensive position, substituting liberally to keep players fresh and aggressive when they re-enter the game. Eight players have at least two interceptions and four players have at least 5.5 sacks on a unit that doesn’t rely on a star player. Seven starters were named to the all-CCIW first team — including senior defensive tackle Peter Bulandr, the conference’s defensive player of the year and a Gagliardi Trophy finalist — and two made the second team.

“Last year it was easy to gameplan against us because there was one standout player, [linebacker] Matt Wenger, who was our Superman,” Bulandr said. “Our defense now has 11 Supermen. It’s impossible to gameplan for all 11 of us.”

Both teams realize winning the battles of field position, penalties and turnovers will become even more important in Saturday’s game, where the wind might play a factor.

If points are at a premium, it wouldn’t be surprising if the outcome swings on a return touchdown. The Little Giants have blocked eight kicks, returning two punts for touchdowns, and senior wide receiver Wes Chamblee has scored on three punts and one kickoff. North Central tied the Division III record by scoring on six interception returns.

“That’s the beauty of playing defense,” Bulandr said. “We have the ability to score and to prevent the other team from scoring. We love knowing that we control our own destiny.”

Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Coast Guard at Anna Maria
7:00 PM
Defiance at Baldwin Wallace
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Washington and Lee at Johns Hopkins
7:30 PM
Trine at Manchester
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
TBA
Muhlenberg at Wilkes
6:00 PM
Mass-Dartmouth at Mount Ida
6:00 PM
Delaware Valley at Wesley
7:00 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Stevenson
7:00 PM
Western New England at Springfield
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Becker
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Albright at Salisbury
7:00 PM
WPI at MIT
7:00 PM
Salve Regina at Worcester State
7:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Curry
7:00 PM
Morrisville State at St. Lawrence
10:00 PM
Adrian at Pacific
Sep. 3: All times Eastern
TBA
Endicott at Framingham State
TBA
Kean at Christopher Newport
TBA
King's at Moravian
Live Stats
TBA
Lebanon Valley at Franklin and Marshall
TBA
Marietta at Denison
TBA
McDaniel at Catholic
TBA
Wisconsin Lutheran at Trinity Int'l
TBA
Sewanee at Kenyon
TBA
UW-Platteville at George Fox
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon
Live Stats
12:00 PM
Chicago at Case Western Reserve
12:00 PM
Husson at Alfred
12:00 PM
SUNY-Maritime at Maine Maritime
Video
12:00 PM
Cortland at Heidelberg
12:00 PM
Otterbein at Buffalo State
12:00 PM
Ursinus at Bethany
1:00 PM
Plymouth State at Castleton
Live Stats
1:00 PM
RPI at Norwich
1:00 PM
Randolph-Macon at Dickinson
1:00 PM
Oberlin at Kalamazoo
1:00 PM
Emory and Henry at Ferrum
1:00 PM
Wooster at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Alfred State at William Paterson
1:00 PM
St. Vincent at Alma
1:00 PM
Concordia (Wis.) at Finlandia
1:00 PM
Olivet at St. John Fisher
1:00 PM
Rowan at Widener
1:00 PM
Hobart at Brockport
1:00 PM
Union at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Susquehanna at Lycoming
1:00 PM
Utica at Misericordia
1:00 PM
TCNJ at UW-Whitewater
1:30 PM
Wilmington at Bluffton
1:30 PM
Monmouth at Hope
1:30 PM
Bridgewater at Gettysburg
1:30 PM
Muskingum at Waynesburg
1:30 PM
Juniata at Grove City
2:00 PM
Lakeland at Carroll
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-Stevens Point at St. Norbert
2:00 PM
Austin at Hendrix
2:00 PM
Maranatha Baptist at Martin Luther
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Millikin at Greenville
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Eureka at Knox
Live Stats
2:00 PM
MacMurray at Rockford
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus at Westminster (Mo.)
Video Live Stats
2:00 PM
UW-La Crosse at Luther
2:00 PM
Beloit at Lake Forest
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Jamestown
2:00 PM
Crown at Hamline
Live Stats
2:00 PM
Carleton at Macalester
2:00 PM
Bethel at Dubuque
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Live Stats
2:00 PM
St. Olaf at Grinnell
2:00 PM
Buena Vista at Mayville St.
2:00 PM
Simpson at UW-Stout
2:00 PM
Aurora at Carthage
2:00 PM
UW-River Falls at Coe
2:00 PM
Ripon at Concordia-Chicago
2:00 PM
Elmhurst at Loras
2:00 PM
Huntingdon at Louisiana College
2:00 PM
North Central (Ill.) at Robert Morris-Chicago
2:00 PM
Benedictine at Wheaton (Ill.)
2:00 PM
John Carroll at UW-Oshkosh
2:30 PM
Southern Virginia at Earlham
Live Stats
4:00 PM
La Verne at Puget Sound
Live Stats
4:00 PM
Central at Whitworth
5:00 PM
Hartwick at Western Connecticut
6:00 PM
Wabash at Albion
6:00 PM
Maryville (Tenn.) at Berry
6:00 PM
Augustana at Mount St. Joseph
6:00 PM
Thomas More at Franklin
Live Stats
6:00 PM
Hampden-Sydney at Averett
6:00 PM
Redlands at Trinity (Texas)
7:00 PM
Hiram at Westminster (Pa.)
7:00 PM
LaGrange at Birmingham-Southern
7:00 PM
Thiel at Allegheny
7:00 PM
Capital at Wittenberg
7:00 PM
Shenandoah at Gallaudet
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Illinois College at Rose-Hulman
Video Live Stats
7:00 PM
Hanover at Centre
7:00 PM
Geneva at Frostburg State
7:00 PM
Nichols at Westfield State
7:00 PM
Greensboro at Guilford
Live Stats
7:00 PM
Hardin-Simmons at Southwestern
7:00 PM
Anderson at North Park
7:00 PM
Ohio Wesleyan at Mary Hardin-Baylor
7:00 PM
East Texas Baptist at Texas Lutheran
7:10 PM
St. Thomas at UW-Eau Claire
Video Live Stats
8:00 PM
Willamette at Rhodes
8:00 PM
Cornell at Iowa Wesleyan
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Augsburg at Northwestern (Minn.)
Live Stats
8:00 PM
Southwestern Assemblies at Howard Payne
8:00 PM
Sul Ross State at UT-Permian Basin
Dec. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Mount Union 49, at St. Thomas 35
@ Salem, Va.
Box Score Recap Recap Photos