If you go by comparative scores, McPherson College and Ottawa University will be headed to overtime when they meet Saturday night in a KCAC showdown that will have wide-range ramifications.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and it will be the Bulldogs’ last night game of the year.
The Bulldogs, coming off a bye week, defeated Southwestern 40-21 earlier this season, the same score the Braves handled the Moundbuilders by last week.
First-year McPherson College coach Pete Sterbick, who is leading what some believe to be the surprise team of the year, said the Bulldogs have been thinking about Ottawa the moment after putting the finishing touches on a 61-9 blowout of Bethel, their most recent game.
“I don’t worry about the rust at all,” said Sterbick, who said the team used the off week for conditioning, and preparing for anything and everything that Ottawa will throw the Bulldogs’ way. “It (the KCAC race) is really jumbled. We know what we have to do. We have to take care of what we can control.”
What the Bulldogs need is a signature win, as their three KCAC wins have come against second-division clubs and their one conference loss is a one-point, last-second decision to Friends, one of five teams with one loss.
Ottawa, coached by Kent Kessinger — who is carving out quite a legacy at OU— certainly represents star power. It was the overwhelming favorite during the KCAC preseason, but lost its conference opener to Kansas Wesleyan 31-28, but since has beaten Saint Mary (50-42), Tabor (25-21) and Southwestern.
Against Southwestern, the Braves led only 17-14 at the half and 27-21 after three quarters, while the Bulldogs dominated the Builders, leading as much as 41-7.
OU’s versatile Shane Gimzo threw for 332 yards and three scores last week, while also running for 56 on 18 carries, as the Braves keep the ball in his hands almost exclusively. Dexter Hayes has added some jazz to the offense, rushing for 104 yards last week.
“Gimzo is an excellent athlete,” Sterbick said. “He can throw it some and can run. They have a couple of good receivers and a tailback who is quick.”
The Braves will line up in a 3-4 defense and the key for the Bulldogs will be to pick up the blitz, as Sterbick said they constantly send one or more linebackers.
It promises to be a shootout, as OU has the KCAC’s second-ranked offense and the Bulldogs are No. 3. Defensively, the Bulldogs are No. 1 in the KCAC, while Ottawa is only No. 7.
The Bulldogs have had nice balance. Quarterback Jake Snodgrass actually is the top rusher with 290 yards, though Terrance Jones and Havelock Pomele aren’t far behind. Snodgrass already is over the 1,000-yard passing mark with 1,174 and nine scores, though he has been picked off seven times.
Julius Record is far and away the top receiver with 45 catches for 507 yards and four scores, including 15 catches for 270 yards against Bethel. But Snodgrass also has made good use of tight ends Paul Rotering and Byron O’Rourke, who have come up big in some fourth-down situations.
Perhaps what was best about the off week was getting some players healed. Brian Gahagan returns to the defensive line, and the Bulldogs will welcome back Jimmy Wilson in the back seven.
Mac will have another week off following this game, since the Oct. 20 Tabor game was cancelled due to the Brandon Brown tragedy. The Bulldogs will return to action hosting Saint Mary on Oct. 27.