The Muskingum University football team will look to remain unbeaten and atop the Ohio Athletic Conference when it hosts Heidelberg University on Saturday, October 8. Game time is slated for 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 (4-0, 3-0) will enter the game riding the momentum of four straight convincing wins, including their 14-3 victory at Wilmington College last week. Muskingum's play has received national attention with Muskingum being ranked 36th in the latest D3Football.com poll and 41st in the American Football Coaches Association poll.
Heidelberg (3-1, 2-1) arrives in New Concord as one of the hottest teams in the region. The Student Princes crushed Capital University last week, 55-3, and beat Otterbein University 41-20 the week before. Over Heidelberg's last two games, the Student Princes have averaged 540 yards and 48 points per game.
Muskingum's defense continues to be a dominant force on the field. The Muskies rank first in NCAA Division III in sacks per game (6.5 spg), third in tackles for loss per game (10.0 tflpg) and fifth in both rushing defense (54.5 rypg) and scoring defense (7.8 ppg) and 14th in total defense (233.3 ypg).
Overall, the Muskie defense has notched 40 tackles for loss, 26 sacks, seven interceptions and forced four fumbles en route to allowing just 7.7 points and 233 yards per game.
The hard-hitting unit is led by senior linebackers Alex Thomas and Ethan Wetzel. Thomas ranks third in the league in both tackles and sacks. He is averaging 10.5 tackles per game and has notched four sacks. Wetzel ranks ninth in the conference averaging 8.2 hits per game with one sack for nine yards and one forced fumble. Both Thomas and Wetzel have been recognized for their outstanding play this season by being named OAC Defensive Players of the Week and being named to the D3Football.com National Team of the Week.
Also aiding the stout defense is senior safety Anthony Zarcone, junior safety Tyler Richardson and senior defensive lineman Rob Premdas. Zarcone ranks third on the team averaging 5.5 stops per game and is second in the OAC in passes defended with six. Richardson leads the conference with three interceptions and is tied with Zarcone for second in the OAC in passes defended with six. Premdas is second on the squad with five tackles for loss for 18 yards.
The Muskie offense, which is averaging 24.8 points and 308.5 yards per game, is led by sophomore quarterback Dalton Smith. Smith ranks fifth in the league in total offense averaging 216 yards per outing. He has thrown for 668 yards and five touchdowns and added 196 yards on 45 carries with four scores.
Senior running back Palmer Smith leads the rushing attack with 283 yards on 67 totes. He's averaging 4.2 yards per carry and ranks seventh in the league averaging 70.8 rushing yards per game. Also helping the ground game is sophomore running back Shane Dotson, who has two rushing touchdowns.
The receivers are paced by sophomore James Washington and senior Brad Polaski. Washington leads the Muskies with 13 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns. Last week, Washington set career-high marks with his five-reception, 103-yard performance against Wilmington. Polaksi has grabbed nine receptions for 97 yards. Senior running back Demetrius Bailey has hauled in six receptions for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Muskingum special teams are paced by junior punter Danny Snively and junior kick returner Andrew Davis. Snively ranks second in the league averaging 40.3 yards per punt and has a league-best 64-yard boot. He has placed eight punts inside the 20. Davis is one of the top kick returners in the OAC averaging 31.8 yards per return.
Freshman quarterback Mike Mees directs the Student Princes' offense which averages 468.2 yards and 37.5 points per game. Heidelberg ranks 16th in Division III in total offense and 26th in scoring offense. Mees has passed for 894 yards and 11scores. Also in the backfield is sophomore running back Germany Woods who ranks second in the league averaging 122 rushing yards per game. He has rushed for 488 yards on 80 totes with three touchdowns and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Heidelberg is averaging 233 rushing yards per contest.
Junior wide receivers Mario Escalante, Josh Lynch and C.J. Powell are the main targets of Mees. Escalante has 11 receptions for a team-best 261 yards and one score. He ranks seventh in the league averaging 65.2 receiving yards per game. Lynch has hauled in 11 balls for 200 yards and one touchdown. Powell has snared 10 passes for 163 yards and four touchdowns.
The Heidelberg defense is led by junior linebacker Craig Sykes, sophomore linebacker Dawson Gore and junior safety Tyler Levanduski.
Sykes ranks fifth in the OAC in tackles averaging 9.5 hits per game. He also has three tackles for loss, one sack and two interceptions. Gore ranks ninth in the league averaging 8.2 hits per game and Levanduski ranks 14th averaging 7.8 stops per outing. The unit has totaled 21 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 11 interceptions, while holding opponents to 21.5 points and total 377.8 yards per game.
Sophomore kicker Dan Kilger leads the Heidelberg special teams. He has connected on 4-fo-6 field goals with a long of 30 yards and is 16-of-18 in point after attempts. Kilger is averaging 7.0 points per game kicking, which ranks second in the OAC.