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DWU's powerful ground game to be tested against Doane

Dakota Wesleyan University and Doane College are both fighting for positioning in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, but have different methods of reaching their goal.

The matchup of two 3-2 teams kicks off at 1 p.m. today in Crete, Neb.

Wesleyan, which is second in the GPAC in total yards per game (465.8), will look to beat up the conference’s best run defense. In five games, the Doane defense has allowed just 410 rushing yards at an average of 2.0 yards per carry and four touchdowns.

“This is a huge conference game,” DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said. “We are going into a hostile environment because it’s their homecoming and we need to play our best game. We are not going to be perfect, but we need to minimize our mistakes and be as near perfect as we possibly can be. This game will be intense.”

DWU’s offense is led by junior running back Francois Barnaud and senior quarterback Jon Bane. Barnaud leads the conference in rushing yards and scoring with 957 yards and 10 touchdowns, respectively. Bane, a fourth-year starter, leads the conference in passing yards with 1,252 and is averaging 250.4 passing yards per game. Bane has competed 83 of 172 passes with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Barnaud has 143 carries on the season and is coming off consecutive 200-yard rushing games, but Doane’s defense is more than capable of stalling Barnaud and the Tigers.

“Our defense has been strong against the run,” Doane head coach Matt Franzen said, adding his team hasn’t been great against the pass, giving up 238.8 passing yards per game. “With DWU the thing we have to worry about is the balance.

“Defensively, we have to take something away. It is difficult to stop either way but we want to bend but not break and that is what we are hoping to do to win the game.”

Doane will look to slow down Barnaud by keeping eight men in the box, three down linemen and five linebackers. With the defensive pressure from Doane, Wesleyan’s offensive line — tackles Kyle Heneke and Jake Verry, center Eric Witte and guards Skyler Eriksen and Taylor Haley — has a tough task ahead of them.

“Doane is going to bring their best at home and they have a great atmosphere down there,” said Eriksen, who is a Presho native. “Every game we put a lot of pressure on our offensive line and we expect to show up every time. We are going to have to bring every single thing that we’ve got.”

If Doane can slow down the DWU run game look for Wesleyan to go to the air where the premier matchup to watch is DWU senior wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg against Doane cornerback JerSean Walder.

Muilenburg, Bane’s top target, has 530 receiving yards on 25 catches and seven touchdowns. Walder is tied for the GPAC lead in interceptions with three.

“They are looking at the stats saying we have to shut down their run game period,” Cimpl said. “So we have to make the adjustments and make sure we can move the chains and put points on the board.”

Doane’s offense relies on running back Kenneth Boggs and quarterback Phil Hamburger. Boggs has rushed for 429 yards and two touchdowns on 84 carries. Hamburger has completed 43 of 84 passes for 598 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

Brady Bonte leads the Tigers in tackles (47), sacks (3) and tackles for loss (9.5).