A year ago, McPherson College’s Joe Middleton was a tight end in a wide receiver’s body.
Middleton really wasn’t an integral part of the Bulldogs’ offense, coming up with 12 catches, barely one a game.
But Mac coach Joe Bettasso saw the potential mismatch problems the rangy 6-6 Middleton could cause if he played on the outside.
And what a difference it has made.
Middleton hauled in 11 passes for 154 yards and four touchdowns, as the Bulldogs swamped Southwestern 55-21 Saturday to continue their drive toward their first KCAC title in 58 years.
Middleton had scoring grabs of 17, 14, 11 and 57 yards. He now has 50 catches for 818 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“It’s been kind of a surprise,” Bettasso said of Middleton’s performance. “He was coming off knee surgery last year and we weren’t sure how he’d play. We saw some flashes of it this spring and now he’s really come on.”
Mac is now 6-0 in the KCAC and 7-0 overall with three games left, the next two at home against second-division teams Tabor and Bethel.
Middleton was one of many offensive stars on the day for the Bulldogs, who had 557 total yards, 363 through the air and 194 on the ground.
Shane Mascarenas continued to compile dizzying numbers, as he was 24 of 36 for 330 yards and five scores, pushing his season totals to 2,325 yards and 26 TDs.
 Andy Skinner had seven catches for 118 yards and a TD, while Aaron Lafitte rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown. Skinner now has 949 yards and 11 scores, while Lafitte has 797 yards and 14 TDs. Travis Eason added a pair of field goals to aid the cause.
The Moundbuilders actually put up a good fight, down only 13-7 midway through the second quarter. But the backbreaker came when Mac linebacker Darrick Johnson scooped up a fumble and rambled 50 yards for a score, making it 20-7, and Mascarenas and Skinner hooked up on a 47-yard bomb right before the half to make it 27-7.
“We were kind of sleepwalking on defense (until Johnson’s return),” Bettasso said. “That kind of got us going.”
Mac then put the game out of sight with three touchdowns in the third quarter, despite heading into a strong wind.
Mac linebacker Will Powers had one of the game’s most spectacular plays when he picked off a pass and went 46 yards, only to be stopped short of scoring.
Cory Holbert had a nice game for the Moundbuilders, as he sprinted 63 yards for an early score that tied the game, and finished with 186 yards on 31 carries, the best performance against the Bulldogs this year.
STATISTICS
Mac Listed First
First Downs -- 28, 18. Rushes-Yards -- 35-194; 47-216. Passing -- 26-40-1-363; 13-23-1-155. Punts-Avg. -- 2-31.5; 6-35.0. Fumbles-Lost -- 1-0; 2-1. Penalties-Yards -- 6-65; 6-53.
INDIVIDUAL
LEADERS
Rushing
Mac -- Lafitte 29-185, Thibodeaux 2-8, Skinner 3-2, Lonberger 1-(-1).
Southwestern -- Holbert 31-186, May 13-22, Myers 3-8.
Passing
Mac -- Mascarenas 24-36-1-330, Snodgrass 2-4-0-33.
Southwestern -- May 13-23-1-155.
Receiving
Mac -- Middleton 11-154, Skinner 7-118, Lafitte 3-3, Ozbun 2-28, Rotering 2-27, White 1-33.
Southwestern -- Clutter 4-57, Schaefer 4-42, Melby 2-0, Holbert 1-26, Hilker 1-18, Jolliff 1-12.