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DWU defensive back Trevin Island catches a pass during drills at the Tigers’ practice Thursday as the team prepared for its GPAC matchup with Hastings at 1 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

DWU football team hosts Hastings in home opener

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sports Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

As the calendar gets ready to turn to October, the Dakota Wesleyan University football team finally gets to play in front of its home fans.

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The Tigers (1-2, 1-1 GPAC) are excited to show off their explosive offense against Hastings College (1-2, 0-2 GPAC) in front of the Blue and White Days crowd at 1 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.

“Our players are excited and have been talking about all of the people they have coming to the game,” DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said. “These guys are starting to know the opposing locker rooms more than their own.”

Cimpl knows if his team wants to send its fans home with a win, the Tigers will have to do well on the defensive side of the ball.

“It’s a huge emphasis to improve on defense because our offense can’t score if we don’t have the ball,” Cimpl said at Thursday’s practice.

The DWU defense yielded 529 yards of total offense in a 49-42 loss last week to Northwestern College. The Red Raiders found the end zone on seven of their first 10 possessions against the Tigers.

“We put ourselves in tough positions and that puts our offense in tough spots,” Cimpl said. “When we have trouble getting off the field, it’s often a lack of communication.”

The Tigers’ defense tightened things up in the second half against Northwestern, giving DWU a chance to win at the end of the game.

“We’ve showed signs of doing good, but there are times we have taken a step back,” said senior defensive back Matt McManus, a Fulton native. “This week and from now on, we want to start strong and finish stronger.”

The one part of the team that has excelled thus far in 2013 has been its offensive attack. DWU is averaging 520 yards of total offense per game with 348 of those yards coming from the passing game.

Tiger quarterback Jon Bane has 1,043 yards passing this season, which puts him first in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and fifth in the NAIA. Bane has also found his receivers for nine touchdowns in the first three games.

Bane’s No. 1 target is senior wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg, who sits second in the NAIA in total yards receiving with 471 and has six touchdown catches.

Running back Francois Barnaud has been a steady force in the backfield for DWU, averaging 145 yards per game and six touchdowns.

“I know we have identical records, but this is by far the most talented team we have played so far,” Hastings coach Tony Harper said. “That is one of the most explosive offenses the conference has to offer.”

Harper said his team will not be able to stop the DWU offensive weapons, but he hopes his offense can hold onto the ball to keep the Tigers off the board.

“Those guys are just too talented and have played in too many football games to stop them,” Harper added.

Hastings ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided 62-7 loss last week to Doane College.

Broncos’ junior quarterback Matt Overmiller will be tasked with slowing the game down for Hastings. Overmiller ranks fifth in the GPAC with 173 passing yards per game and has thrown three touchdowns but has also given up five interceptions.

The run game for Hastings has been stalled in its first three games as the Broncos are averaging just 99 yards as a team per game.

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