Another MIAA heavyweight is on the docket for Defiance College this week with the Jackets visiting Hope College on Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. dustup.
The inexperienced Jackets took on another MIAA contender last Saturday night, falling 56-6 at Albion College. The task will remain challenging this week against Hope, the MIAA preseason favorite.
A major emphasis this week for second-year DC coach Manny Matsakis has been improving the play of his special teams, which contributed to 21 points for Albion last Saturday.
“The focus has been shoring up the special teams,” stated Matsakis. “It’s to focus on their fundamentals, it’s as simple as that. When I look at last week’s game, we got out of sync in the kicking game. We gave up an immediate seven points and set up for 14 more for them (due to special teams). That part has been a major focus.”
Youth and inexperience were big contributors to the mistakes.
“Historically what happens is, they get too amped to play and forget everything they learned throughout training camp,” said Matsakis. “Then that’s the result. Usually, you only want one or two of those (young) guys (playing). But 70 percent of the team is that. That’s what we’re working through.”
Hope will present a grueling test for the DC defense with a ground and pound style. The Dutchmen ran 57 times for 228 yards in last year’s 41-0 win at Justin F. Coressel Stadium. Quarterback Mason Opple was at the forefront of the onslaught with a hand in all six touchdowns, running for four and throwing for the other two.
Defiance will have to contend with Opple again Saturday, with the senior QB back at the helm of the Hope attack. The Flying Dutchmen suffered a 27-21 loss at Millikin College last Saturday.
“Schematically, it’s going to be loading up the box,” stated Matsakis. “They’re big, physical and they’re one of those teams where if we can just contain them – keep everything between the tackles – then we’ll be in good shape.”
Albion totaled 444 yards last week vs. DC, with the majority (292 yards) coming on the ground. The Britons netted an average of 6.8 yards per rush.
“We were very simple last week,” said Matsakis of his defense. “That was by design. Some of the things that (defensive coordinator) coach (Michael) Starkey would’ve liked to have done wasn’t really in for him to do because of the youth factor. You can’t put too much in but you want to accelerate as fast as you can. Our target has always been to get into conference play and have a package on each side of the ball that we can fully execute, which is quite a bit more than what we currently have.”
Steven Lucas led the DC defense with 11 tackles while Maurice Ponder picked off two passes and Ahmad Burroughs had another interception at Albion.
Defiance’s offense also has plenty of room for improvement following the setback last Saturday. The Jackets generated just 153 yards on 76 offensive snaps.
“If we’re off track by a foot, it’s the difference between gaining 10 yards and losing a yard,” said Matsakis. “It’s that significant. So, it’s getting them to settle down. I think they were too excited to play and they were out of sync.”
Reggie Washington completed 19-36 passes for 131 yards. His favorite target was Jacob Vorce, who tallied 53 yards on five catches while Muskingum transfer Terry Geiger hauled in four passes for 45 yards. Devin Hewitt led the DC ground game with 44 yards on a dozen totes.
“We’re in a position right now that we’ve got to make sure any time we fail – which is basically what a loss is in our book – we’ve got to make sure we learn from it and improve for the next game,” said Matsakis. “I think there’s a lot of things to point to as long as we’re not pointing at each other. I commend these guys for being focused on themselves and their role. Basically, it’s doing their job.”