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. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
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at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
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at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
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at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
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at Western New England 59, Curry 28
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at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Colby 9, at Williams 7
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at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
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Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Final
Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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Final
at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
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at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
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Final
Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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Final
at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
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Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
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Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Final
Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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at Ripon 33, Knox 19
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Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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Final
at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Final
UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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Final
at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Final
Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Final
Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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Final
at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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Final
at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
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Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
Video Live Stats
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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Final
at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
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Sep. 29: All times Eastern
6:30 PM
Randolph-Macon at Shenandoah
Live Stats
Sep. 24: All times Eastern
Final
at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hobart 27, Union 23
Box Score Recap
Final
Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
Box Score
Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
Box Score
Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
Box Score Recap
Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Final
Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
Box Score Recap