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Trevin Island goes for the ball during DWU's defensive drills Thursday as the Tigers prepared for its showdown today with Briar Cliff University. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

Tigers set for GPAC opener at DakotaDome

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Tigers set for GPAC opener at DakotaDome
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The Dakota Wesleyan University football team set to kick off its Great Plains Athletic Conference schedule against Briar Cliff University at 1 p.m. today at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

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The Tigers (0-1) finished the 2012 conference schedule in fourth place at 5-4 and know the only way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win the GPAC.

"It is always nice to get back to your conference," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said at his team's practice Thursday. "Familiar faces are a good and bad things sometimes. They are as familiar with you as you are with them."

DWU comes into play today having dropped its season opener on the road last week against University of Wisconsin-Stout 41-28, but the Tigers know all of their goals are still in front of them.

"It is exciting to be that point where we have a vision, we have goal, but we also have a way of going about getting to that point." Cimpl said. "That's the biggest difference with this team. We aren't just talking about it. We are implementing things to be that type of team."

DWU quarterback Jon Bane was back on the practice field Thursday after being hospitalized in Wisconsin due to heat exhaustion after the Tigers' loss. Bane's presence will be essential today as the DWU passing game looks to take advantage of the fast surface in the DakotaDome.

"A lot of our guys have played at the dome before, and it'll be a really good, fast pace for us," DWU junior wide receiver Arthur Brown said, adding that having Anthony Muilenburg back this season helps to open the game up for himself and the other offensive weapons for the Tigers.

Muilenburg made a statement in his return to the Tigers last week after sitting out the entire 2012 season with an injury. The senior wide receiver hauled in seven catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns against UW-Stout.

Charger coach Tom Rethman said his defense will have to be ready if it hopes to stop Muilenburg and the rest of the Tigers' receiving corps. Briar Cliff (0-1) dropped its season opener to then-No. 24 Benedictine College 30-9 on Aug. 31.

"We had the added bonus of the bye, which allowed us to focus on the things we need to improve, while having an extra practice and walkthrough to get ready for Dakota Wesleyan," the sixth-year coach said prior to heading to the DakotaDome Friday for practice to get acclimated to the unique surface.

Rethman knows that DWU's Muilenburg will have to be accounted for on each play, but also realizes the Tigers have a dangerous running game to turn to as well.

"When you look at Dakota Wesleyan, they have that three-headed attack going with Muilenburg, Bane and a pretty talented running back (Francois Barnaud) as well," Rethman said.

Briar Cliff, which finished 2012 at 1-10, will need to be tighter on defense today against DWU. The Chargers allowed 465 yards of total offense in their opening loss, 253 of which came from Benedictine's rushing attack.

The GPAC opener should be electric for the Tigers and Chargers, with both teams looking for their first win.

Dakota Wesleyan (0-1) vs. Briar Cliff (0-1)

When/Where: 1 p.m. today at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Last Meeting: DWU def. Briar Cliff 24-13 at Joe Quintal Field in 2012.

Coaches: DWU's Ross Cimpl, second season; Briar Cliff's Tom Rethman, sixth season.

Game Notes: This is the opening GPAC game for both schools in 2013. DWU was 5-4 in the GPAC last year, while Briar Cliff finished 1-8. ... Today marks the 11th meeting between the schools. DWU holds a 6-4 advantage all time, including three straight wins over the Chargers. ... Francois Barnaud made his return for DWU last week after missing 2012 with an injury. The starting running back finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. ... Anthony Muilenburg returned after missing 2012 with an injury to catch seven passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns for the Tigers last week against UW-Stout. ... Muilenburg now ranks eighth on the Tigers' all-time scoring list with 132 points. ... Jon Bane was hospitalized in Wisconsin with heat exhaustion following DWU's loss to UW-Stout on Sept. 7. Bane was back at practice this week and will be ready to start for the Tigers today. ...Area players on the depth chart for DWU include freshman wide receiver Alex Robertson, of Canistota, sophomore tight end Trevor Schroeder, of Canistota, sophomore offensive linemen Austin Schroeder and Taylor Haley, of Winner, freshman defensive lineman Cohl Ratterman, of Colome, freshman linebacker Travis McDonald and sophomore defensive back Jared Van Winkle, both of Tyndall. ... Briar Cliff quarterback returned from an injury plagued 2012 season in the opener for the Chargers to pass for 229 yards. ... Tyler McGhee is the top returning wide receiver for Briar Cliff. McGhee caught four passes for 116 yards and the Charger's only touchdown against Benedictine. ... Defensive lineman Matt Miller led the Chargers in their opening game with 10 tackles.

Dakota Wesleyan projected starters

Position: Name, year, height, weight, hometown

Offense

QB: Jon Bane, sr., 6-4, 185, Temple, Texas.

TB: Francois Barnaud, jr., 5-9, 200, Belle Fourche, S.D.

WR: Arthur Brown, jr., 6-1, 200, Rosemead, Calif.

WR: Anthony Muilenburg, sr., 6-2, 200, Sioux Falls, S.D.

WR: Mitch Breen, jr., 5-8, 175, Wagner, S.D.

TE: Cody Duerksen, sr., 6-2, 210, Parker, S.D.

LT: Kyle Hencke, jr., 6-3, 260, Sturgis, S.D.

LG: Jake Verry, jr., 6-2, 265, Wernersville, Pa.

C: Eric Witte, sr., 6-0, 270, Huron, S.D.

RG: Skyler Eriksen, sr., 6-0, 260, Presho, S.D.

RT: Spencer Bloch, jr., 6-8, 320, Scotland, S.D.

Defense

DL: Eric Gruis, sr., 6-2, 265, Baltic, S.D.

DL: Matt Tuttle, sr., 6-2, 290, Ethan, S.D.

DL: Brady Mudder, fr, 6-2, 220, Garretson, S.D.

LB: Jeff Maassen, jr., 6-2, 225, Brandon, S.D.

LB: Brady Bonte, so., 6-2, 205, Garretson, S.D.

LB: Adam Bormann, fr., 6-0, 210, Stickney, S.D.

LB: Anthony Cervantes, jr., 6-1, 210, Burbank, Calif.

DB: Tanner Munk, fr., 5-10, 160, Dell Rapids, S.D.

DB: Andrew DeVaney, so., 5-11, 180, Sioux Falls, S.D.

DB: Matt McManus, jr., 6-0, 175, Alexandria, S.D.

DB: Josh Fiedler, jr., 6-0, 200, Dell Rapids, S.D.

Special Teams

K: Dan Porter, so., 6-0, 185, Plattsmouth, Neb.

P: Dan Porter, so., 6-0, 185, Plattsmouth, Neb.

Briar Cliff projected starters

Position: Name, year, height, weight, hometown

Offense

QB: 7 Kevin Van Egdom, so., 6-4, 210, Liberty, Mo.

HB: 28 Brady Van Dusen, jr., 6-1, 215, Sioux City, Iowa.

TB: 25 Mitch Heikes, so., 5-11, 190, Laurel, Neb.

WR: 4 Tyler McGhee, so., 6-1, 175, Westlake, Calif.

WR: 80 Bret Van Muyden, jr., 6-1, 190, Hawarden, Iowa.

WR: 88 Matt Harshman, so., 6-3, 180, Tuscon, Ariz.

LT: 55 Cody Jordan, jr., 6-1, 255, Florissant, Mo.

LG: 79 Josh Webb, sr., 6-5, 270, Indianola, Iowa.

C: 62 Matt Jacobs, so. 5-11, 270, Fremont, Neb.

RG: 59 Jameel Cunningham, sr., 5-11, 250, St. Louis, Mo.

RT: 77 Wes Bell, sr., 6-3, 320, St. Louis, Mo.

Defense

CB: 1 Eddie Ficklin, sr., 5-9, 155, Los Angeles, Calif.

CB: 21 Marquette Harper, sr., 5-11, 180, Los Angeles, Calif.

FS: 10 Steve Trujillo, jr., 6-0, 175, Peoria, Ariz.

SS: 31 Eric Nicholsen, jr., 5-9, 185, Omaha, Neb.

SLB: 18 Harry Wentland, sr., 5-9, 180, Machesney Par, Ill.

WLB: 57 Josh Block, so., 6-0, 205, Ponca, Neb.

MLB: 43 Matt Delany, sr., 5-10, 225, Bellevue, Neb.

ROV: 27 Andre Reyes, jr., 5-10, 210, Kenosha, Wis.

DE: 99 Alex Herndon, sr., 6-1, 260, Crockett, Calif.

N: 56 Tyler Dean, fr., 5-11, 230, North Port, Flor.

DE: 40 Matt Miller, jr., 6-3, 260, Moraine, Ohio.

Special teams

K: 32 Alex Pujado, fr., 5-10, 185, Harrisburg, S.D.

P: 9 Rusty Muncy, jr., 5-10, 165, Bodfish, Calif.

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