Muskingum to host ninth-ranked Ohio Northern in battle of unbeatens
NEW CONCORD, OHIO, September 21, 2011 - The Muskingum University football team will look to remain unbeaten and atop the Ohio Athletic Conference when it hosts ninth-ranked Ohio Northern University on Saturday, September 24 at 1:30 p.m. in McConagha Stadium.
The game will be broadcast live on WMCO 90.7 FM and simulcast on the Muskingum Web Broadcasting Network located on the Muskingum athletic web site beginning with the pregame show at 1:15 p.m.
The Muskies (2-0, 1-0) will enter the game riding the momentum of two straight dominating wins. Muskingum beat Defiance College 24-7 to open the year and OAC rival Marietta College 34-14 last Saturday under the lights.
Ohio Northern (2-0, 1-0) arrives in New Concord ranked ninth in both the D3football.com and American Football Coaches Association national polls. The Polar Bears beat North Carolina Wesleyan College 38-20 in its season-opener and Otterbein University in an overtime thriller, 34-33.
Muskingum's defense, which ranks first in NCAA Division III in sacks per game (8.5 spg) and tackles for loss (12 pg), fourth in rushing defense (32 rypg) and seventh in total defense (192 ypg), has controlled the field through its hard-hitting, aggressive play.
The unit is led by senior All-OAC linebacker Alex Thomas, who was honored with OAC Defensive Player of the Week Honors following his 15-tackle performance against Marietta. Thomas is averaging 12 stops per game, which ranks third in the league. He also ranks second in the league with three sacks.
Senior linebacker Ethan Wetzel ranks 13th in the conference averaging eight hits per game, while junior defensive lineman Sean West ranks first in the OAC and second in the nation with 4.5 sacks.
Overall, the Muskie defense has notched 24 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, three interceptions and forced three fumbles en route to allowing just 10.5 points and 192 yards per game.
The Muskie offense, which is averaging 29 points and 304 yards per game, is led by sophomore quarterback Dalton Smith. Smith ranks second in the league in total offense averaging 232.5 yards per outing. He has thrown for 330 yards and three touchdowns and added 144 yards on 22 carries with one score.
Senior running back Palmer Smith helps aid the rushing attack averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Last week against the Pioneers, he rumbled for a game-high 95 yards. Also helping the ground game is sophomore running back Shane Dotson, who leads the team in rushing touchdowns with two.
The receivers are paced by sophomore James Washington and senior Brad Polaski. Washington leads the Muskies with six catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, while Polaksi has grabbed six receptions for 70 yards.
Muskingum special teams are paced by junior punter Danny Snively, sophomore running back Alvin Taylor and sophomore wide receiver Joe Demaree.
Snively ranks second in the league averaging 40.3 yards per punt and has a league-best 64-yard boot. He has placed four punts inside the 20.
Taylor was recognized as the OAC Special Teams Player of the Week after returning a 36-yard punt for a touchdown against Marietta. The touchdown was the first of Taylor's collegiate career and first Muskingum punt return for a touchdown since 2003.
Demaree ranks third in the OAC averaging 6.6 yards per punt return.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Rue directs the Polar Bear offense which averages 356.5 yards and 36 points per game. Rue has passed for 211 yards and two scores. Also in the backfield is sophomore running back Justin Buenger who ranks third in the OAC averaging 117 yards rushing per game. He has scored two touchdowns and averages 4.6 yards per tote. Ohio Northern averages 227 yards rushing per game, which ranks 27th in the nation.
Junior wide receivers Kyle Baker and Justin Wilson pace the team in receptions and yards. Baker has caught 10 balls for 98 yards, while Wilson has registered seven grabs for 28 yards.
The Polar Bear defense is led by sophomore linebacker Malcolm Burrell, senior defensive back Chad Coward and junior defensive back Cory Spelman.
Burrell ranks fifth in the league averaging 10.5 hits per game and Coward ranks eighth averaging 9.5 tackles per game. Spelman ranks 16th averaging 7.5 stops per outing. The unit has totaled 16 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three sacks and forced two fumbles, while holding opponents to 26.5 points and 349 yards per game.
Sophomore kicker Luke Rice leads the Ohio Northern special teams with three field goals in five attempts, with a long of 32 yards. He also is 9-for-9 in point after attempts.