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Tigers struggling to find defensive stops

For all of the offensive success Dakota Wesleyan University's football team has had this season, the defense leaves a lot to be desired.

And after allowing 76 points on Saturday, the Tiger defense is trying to climb out of the national statistical basement.

The numbers starkly tell the story. DWU's pass defense currently ranks last in the country, allowing 323.3 yards per game. DWU is allowing 509.9 yards per game, third-worst in the country (86th out of 88 teams in NAIA football).

The Tigers are 73rd in scoring defense, allowing 40.3 points per game and opponents are converting nearly half (46 percent) of their third downs against DWU.

"A lot of things," DWU coach Ross Cimpl said when asked what are the biggest issues defensively. "But ultimately, it just comes down to execution."

In addition to execution, Cimpl added the communication needs to improve.

"The one area that we've talked more about than any other area is probably just communication," Cimpl said. "Giving yourself a chance pre-snap to get yourself in the right spot is probably the thing that we need to work on the most."

The Tigers are coming off a 76-21 defeat against No. 4 Morningside College, which racked up 733 total yards of offense. It was the second time this season DWU gave up 60 or more points. The Tigers dropped a 68-67 game against Doane University earlier this season. DWU gave up 597 yards against Doane.

DWU senior defensive back Charlie LaRoche said the defensive issues stem from surrendering too many explosive plays.

"We will be good for two downs and then third down, we will have a mental breakdown and give up a big play," LaRoche said. "It's killing us right now. It's something that we are working on."

LaRoche said the defense is continuing to work on the fundamentals to shore up the problems.

"We are just trying to stay on top of routes," he said. "We are trying to finish our tackles and our pursuit. If a guy does break a tackle, make sure there is 10 more guys coming to the ball. We are trying to do the little things. We didn't do those last week. Those little things are what is going to make the difference this week."

The Tigers have also had trouble turning the ball over and forcing opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions, said LaRoche. DWU has three interceptions and four forced fumbles.

"Our pressure needs to be better and our coverage needs to be better," LaRoche said. "We are working on that. We don't focus on the turnovers. We know they will come. We are making an emphasis in practice. So we will see how it turns out on Saturday."

The Tigers (4-3, 2-2 GPAC) play at No. 17 Northwestern College (5-1, 3-1 GPAC) on Saturday in Orange City, Iowa.