SETTING THE STAGE
Two of the final three remaining unbeaten teams in Upper Midwest Athletic Conference play will meet on the gridiron Saturday when the Eureka College football team hosts the Westminster Blue Jays at 1 p.m. at Pete FioRito Stadium at McKinzie Field. The contest marks Eureka's annual homecoming game.
Eureka topped Presentation 55-27 last week in Aberdeen, S.D. to move to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the UMAC, the best start in league play for a Eureka football squad since 1995.
Eureka finished the night with 579 yards, its best offensive output since the Red Devils went for 744 yards versus Crown on Nov. 7, 2009. The 28-point margin of victory was Eureka's most lopsided win since dealing Principia a 47-19 defeat on Oct. 18, 2008.
Through three games, Eureka ranks third among UMAC teams with an average of 372.3 yards per game. Eureka's air attack has been especially solid, racking up 306.7 yards per contest to rank second in the league behind only Westminster. That passing average ranks 16th nationally.
Owning the UMAC's top-ranked offense at 46.5 points and 456.5 yards per game, the Blue Jays are 4-0 overall and 3-0 against UMAC competition in 2011. The potent Westminster offense ranks among the national leaders in pass efficiency (191.48, seventh) and scoring (eighth).
The offense has shined under the direction of sophomore quarterback Scott Rodgers. The Centralia, Mo. native ranks third nationally in passing efficiency (196.86) and 12th in total offense (318), which also leads the league. Senior receiver Carl Givens is tied for 10th nationally and leads the conference in receptions per game (8.75). Givens is also tied for 14th in scoring at 12 points a game.
Westminster previously played football in the UMAC from 2002-2007, winning back-to-back league titles in 2003 and 2004. The Blue Jays left the UMAC when the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference revived football competition in 2008, but returned to the UMAC in 2009 with previous SLIAC foes Eureka, Greenville and MacMurray when the SLIAC dropped football again after the 2008 season.
THE HEAD COACHES
Eureka College athletics Hall of Famer Kurt Barth is currently in his third season as the head coach of the Red Devils in 2011.
Since being hired as the 12th head coach in program history in December 2008, Barth has rejuvenated the EC football program and installed one of the most prolific passing offenses in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and all of NCAA Division III.
Barth is 0-2 all-time in games against Westminster.
John Welty joined the Westminster football coaching staff as defensive coordinator in 1998. He was named head football coach at the end of the season. He guided the 1999 Blue Jays to an 8-2 record and a share of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, earning SLIAC Coach of the Year honors in the process. In 2003 and 2004, he guided Westminster to consecutive Upper Midwest Athletic Conference titles.
Welty is a 1977 graduate of Benedictine (Ill.). He served as an assistant coach at North Central College and Simpson College before returning to his alma mater to serve as head football coach for eight years. In addition to his duties as Westminster head football coach, Welty is an instructor of physical education.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
Saturday's game between Eureka and Westminster marks the fourth time the two squads have met in football and the second time at McKinzie Field.
The Blue Jays have claimed all three of the previous meetings, including a 35-34 victory in Eureka in Oct. 10, 2009.
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL
One of Eureka's biggest keys to winning this Saturday could be how the Red Devils protect the ball on offense.
The Westminster defense has forced 18 turnovers through its four games, recording 10 interceptions and recovering eight fumbles. The Blue Jays' turnover margin of +3.5 per game leads all of Division III.
The Red Devils have committed eight turnovers this season, but didn't lose the ball once in its previous outing at McKinzie Field in a 23-6 UMAC victory over Crown. The win over Crown marked the first time in more than two years the Red Devils didn't give the ball away on offense in a single game.
BEST START SINCE '95?
With victories over Crown and Presentation to start the 2011 UMAC schedule, Eureka can earn its first 3-0 start in conference play since 1995 with a win Saturday against Westminster.
Eureka opened the 1995 season with Illini-Badger Football Conference victories over Greenville, Concordia (Wis.) and Concordia (Ill.).
Additionally, Eureka is shooting for its first 3-1 start overall since 1995.
Out-of-town fans interested in keeping tabs on Saturday's game can visit the "Scores" page at D3Football.com for in-game scoring updates.
Additionally, fans are encouraged to follow the Red Devils on Twitter and "Like" the Red Devils on Facebook for instant updates sent directly to their computer or mobile device. The Eureka College sports information department will "tweet" in-game updates throughout the course of Saturday's game on Twitter. Visit the official Eureka College athletics website for more information and use the hashtag #ecreddevils to join the conversation.
DURLEY'S CAREER NIGHT
Eureka junior quarterback Sam Durley enjoyed the best performance of his collegiate career last Saturday at Presentation, breaking single-game school records with 29 completions, 478 yards and eight touchdowns to be named UMAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Durley's eight touchdowns fell one short of matching the Division III record and were the most touchdown throws by a Division III quarterback in a game this season. Additionally, his 478 passing yards on Saturday were the second-most in a single game by a Division III player in 2011, trailing only a 549-yard performance by Lawrence's Luke Barthelmess against Knox on Sept. 10.
The award from the UMAC is the second of Durley's career. He was previously chosen UMAC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for 289 yards and five touchdowns in the Red Devils' 40-14 rout of Northwestern (Minn.) on Oct. 23, 2010.
SCHMIDGALL GOES OFF
Most of Durley's damage on Saturday was done with senior wide receiver Wes Schmidgall, who set new career-bests with 13 catches and 257 receiving yards.
Each total marked the best effort by a Eureka receiver since current head coach Kurt Barth made 20 receptions against Concordia (Wis.) on Sept. 28, 1996 and went for 289 yards at Lakeland on Nov. 5, 1994. Schmidgall also matched a career-high last week with four touchdown receptions.
Schmidgall has now gone over 100 yards receiving in two consecutive weeks. The preseason All-American now owns 12 100-yard receiving games and three 200-yard receiving games in his collegiate career.
NEW BESTS FOR THE DAWSONS
While there is no family relation between two of Eureka's top offensive weapons, both Corey Dawson and Matt Dawson turned in outstanding efforts in the Red Devils' win at Presentation.
Corey Dawson, a sophomore running back from Farmington, set new career-highs with 14 carries and 92 rushing yards. Additionally, his 49-yard run early in the fourth quarter was the longest of his career and his 24-yard touchdown catch from Sam Durley was his first career receiving touchdown.
Matt Dawson, a junior receiver from Goodfield, hauled in six receptions for 80 yards against the Saints to set new personal-bests in each category for the third consecutive game. He also snagged his second career touchdown pass midway through the second quarter to give the Red Devils a 27-0 lead.
MYERS GETS SIX
One of Sam Durley's eight passing touchdowns went to senior receiver Cody Myers last Saturday, the first career touchdown reception for the Ipava, Ill. native.
Myers, who played four years of basketball at Eureka from 2007-11, is in his second year as a part of Eureka's receiving corps. Through 12 career football games and three starting assignments, Myers has made 17 catches for 221 yards and Saturday's touchdown at Presentation.
While nearly all of Eureka's eye-popping statistics from last Saturday's win came from the Red Devils' offensive unit, the Eureka defense chipped in with big individual performances as well.
Junior nose guard Craig Wilson broke through for his first career sack, taking down Presentation's Cullen O'Brien in the second quarter for a loss of three yards. The sack was the first for the Red Devils this season.
In addition to making four total tackles against the Saints, junior defensive end Dan Boslen was in the right place at the right time when he recovered his first career fumble. Bolsen pounced on Tyler Montague's fumble at Presentation's 40-yard line early in the second quarter.
Senior cornerback Rosney Beverly extended his lead as the active Eureka leader in interceptions when he picked off O'Brien for his seventh career interception on the second play from scrimmage in the second quarter.
Senior free safety Mike Minehan also joined in on the action, returning an interception 40 yards in the fourth quarter, the fourth interception of his collegiate career.
Eureka College seniors Alex Hess, Mike Minehan and Wes Schmidgall have each been selected to the D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-America Third Team, according to an announcement from the website in late August.
D3PRODAY.com is the nation's first and only Division III Pro Day and Combine for seniors after the regular season. D3PRODAY.com Preseason All-Americans represent the board's best seniors in Division III. The selection board is made up of pro scouts, NFL and CFL agents and former NFL coaches and players.