The University of Dubuque football team will be looking for it's third conference championship under head coach Stan Zweifel in 2019. The Spartans return eight offensive, nine defensive, and five special team starters. A total of 55 letterwinners return to a team which finished 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the American Rivers Conference in 2018.
This season's strengths are veteran starters on both offense and defensive sides of the ball along with one of the strongest kicking games in NCAA Division III. One weakness might be the depth of the offensive and defensive lines, but a large incoming group of underclassmen will be out to prove they belong on the field.
UD averaged 29.5 points a game, rushed for 1,967 yards and passed for 2,090 yards. The Spartans return the team rushing leader in Dwayne Allen Jr. who carried the ball 195 times for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns with his longest being from 79 yards. Speed in the running back position is probably the quickest of the Zweifel era, watch for them to break open some long runs in 2019.
Quarterback Sean Duffy returns behind center, he threw for over 2,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last year. In 10 games, his effeciency was 147.1 and completed 155 of 266 passing attempts. He will look to find multiple targets in a group of wide receivers who may be the best receiving corp in past 10 years.
Defensively UD intercepted the opposition 14 times and were led by Blaze Barista who finished with five. The Spartans sacked quarterbacks 27 times for a loss of 183 yards, 65 tackles for losses of 271 yards. Chad Marsh led all tackles with 70, Marshon Crowder had 60, Barista 57, and Dalton Knaack 41.
Special teams is highlighted by Andy Vujnovich who punted 42 times for 1,570 yards. He was able to flip the field in crucial times a year ago and placed the ball inside the 20 yard line 13 times and had five punts over 50 yards in 2018. Tyler Sheffield returns for kickoffs where he had 54 for 3,085 yards for an average of 57.1 yards and 11 touchbacks. A.J. Hunter is the team's top kick returner who caught 17 and returned for 334 yards for an average of 19.6 a return.
UD began pre-season camp with over 140 student-athletes looking to face a tough early schedule with top-ranked UW-Whitewater in the opener on Sept. 7 in Whitewater, Wis. The Warhawks have never lost to the Spartans and hold a 3-0 edge in the series.
Zweifel will return to the sidelines of Perkins Stadium for the first time since 2006 after spending 16 seasons as offensive coordinator for the host Warhawks. He begins his 11th season after guiding UD to two conference titles (2011, 2015) during his tenure (61-41 overall in 10 seasons).
The Spartans opener will have some new faces on the coaching staff. Dan Clark joined the Spartans in the spring of the year as offensive coordinator and will bring alot of new exciting ideas and game plans to the team and will take over the play calling.
"Very exciting for me, it will be interesting on Saturday when I'm not calling plays and I may have some withdrawals on Saturday," commented Zweifel. "Opening game they will be tough, we have to play from the get go. I thought the first three possessions last year we played really well. There will be emotions from them as it's their Senior Day and we will have to be emotionally and physically ready to go from the start."
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7 at Perkins Stadium in Whitewater, Wis.
Saturday's game can be heard on 101.1 FM The River in Dubuque and online with Tim Lary and Jim Killoran at https://lightningstream.com/Player.aspx?call=wvre
The game can be watched live on UWW-TV on channel 100.1 on campus or online.
UD 2019 Schedule:
Sept. 7 at UW-Whitewater Whitewater, WI 2:00 p.m.
Sept. 14 vs. Pacific University Dubuque, IA 6:00 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Simpson College Dubuque, IA 6:00 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Wartburg College Waverly, IA 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 5 vs. Coe College Dubuque, IA 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Central College Pella, IA 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 19 vs. Loras College (HC) Dubuque, IA 2:00 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Luther College Decorah, IA 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 2 Bye week
Nov. 9 vs. Buena Vista Univ. Dubuque, IA 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Neb. Wesleyan Univ. Lincoln, NE 1:00 p.m.