Search for offensive groove, confidence heats up as Rhodes match draws near

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Maintaining a superior rushing defense and cutting down on turnovers are the key goals for the Tigers as they head into their next game this Saturday against the Rhodes College Lynx.

The Tigers (1-1) head to Memphis for their third straight road matchup against former SCAC rival Rhodes College (0-2). Rhodes lost to Washington University in Saint Louis 48-21 and Trinity University 62-7.

DePauw won their week one matchup against the Rose-Hulman Fightin’ Engineers 23-13. After a bye week, the team followed up on week three with a loss to the Allegheny Gators — the first matchup against that school in DePauw football history. 

The Tigers started the game last week scoring the first 10 points via a 32-yard field goal by sophomore Eric Malm and a 59-yard pass from senior quarterback Ethan Schweir to wide receiver Brody Schoen. Schoen led the receiving corps and scored the only DePauw touchdown of the game.  

The Tigers have struggled offensively with turnovers and establishing an effective rushing attack.

“We started off fast, jumped out to an early lead, and did some good things,” said offensive coordinator Joe Deifel on WGRE’s Tiger Talk. “Our biggest problem was protecting the football. We turned it over a handful of times and any time you turn the ball over that many times you are putting yourself behind the eight ball.” 

Allegheny would score 17 unanswered points after DePauw’s opening 10 points, helped by three interceptions thrown by Schweir. He tallied 188 yards passing while completing 13 of 30 passes.   

“It wasn’t [Schweir’s] best day,” Deifel said. “But he’s a senior. He’s been around the block before. He’s also a first-time starter. You are going to have some growing pains whether you are a senior or a freshman.” 

The offense also looks to disperse the ball in the future more readily to a variety of receivers including tight ends junior Bobby Coburn and sophomore Kevin Ude who were virtually non-existent in the passing attack against Allegheny. 

The Tigers have relied heavily on their defense so far this season, as ball pressure and efficient three and outs have been the remedy for DePauw success. Led by senior captain and defensive lineman Michael Fultz, DaPauw has a rushing defense ranked 17th in the NCAA, allowing only 69 yards per game on average. 

“Defensively as a whole, I thought we played well [against Allegheny],” said assistant coach Len Felton on Tiger Talk. “We gave up less than 250 yards total. Our defensive line played well. I think Saturday our defense came together the way we knew they could play.” 

Fultz added praise for the defense. 

 “Defensively, we knew they were a run team coming in,” Fultz said. “We had a couple plays go our way and a couple plays go the other way. It was a hard fought game on both sides of the ball.” 

The Tigers now turn their attention to Rhodes College, a school that has been beaten by DePauw 11 out of 13 times. With DePauw’s transition to the NCAC, it will likely be the last time these two schools matchup. 

Rhodes has struggled on both sides of the ball because of its youth and changes in coaching personnel. The Lynx have five starters on offense including quarterback Ryan Niedermair. While they have more experience defensively, Rhodes has a young secondary, with two sophomores and a freshman making up a majority of the Lynx starting backfield. 

“By no stretch is Rhodes a bad football team, although I know their scores don’t indicate that necessarily, but they are a lot like us on offense in a lot of ways,” Deifel said. “They are young on defense. But Rhodes traditionally has been one of the best defenses in the SCAC and one of the top defenses in the country. We are expecting a great challenge on Saturday.” 

Rhodes’ four starting specialists are all freshmen, an aspect the Tigers will look to take advantage of come Saturday with the speed of veteran kick returners junior Taylor Wagner and sophomore Bryan Coleman. 

Assistant coach and defensive coordinator Scott Srnka, in his first year at DePauw, will be coaching against his alma mater and former team, where he coached 17 total seasons. 

“I think that it’s a bittersweet moment for Scott,” Felton said. “He’s coached 17 years there, he knows those players. He’s coached those players.” 

“We know Rhodes will be a tough team and [Srnka] knows that too. They will be coming after us,” Fultz said. “They are going to try to get going and get their confidence up. Try to down the run and play a team defense.” 

Deifel affirmed the team’s plans offensively and is confident that the Tigers will be able to find a groove offensively under senior quarterback Ethan Schweir.

“We are just trying to keep it simple and keep it basic and stay true to who we are on offense,” Deifel said. ” We want to put [Schweir] in a position where he can be successful and do that for the rest of the guys so they can execute at a high level.”  

The Tigers look to get over .500 and pick up their second win of the year against Rhodes. The kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24.