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DWU ready to take on Midland

For the second straight week, the Tiger football team will face a top-tier Great Plains Athletic Conference quarterback.

Last week, Dakota Wesleyan University went against No. 1 Morningside and quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who ranks first in the conference in total offense.

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It won’t get any easier for the Wesleyan defense this week as it matches up against Midland University and senior quarterback Michael Karls. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. in Fremont, Neb.

“It is very important for us to come back and get this win, so we can get back on a win streak,” Tyndall native Jared Van Winkle said.

Karls, a second-year starter, ranks second in the GPAC in total offense per game (257.3). In six games, he has thrown for 1,209 yards and rushed for 335. Karls’ main target is wide receiver Nathan Schluter, who has hauled in 22 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

“Karls is a very good quarterback,” Van Winkle said. “He is all over the place, but I think we have had a good week of practice and with our game plan, I think we will do well.”

The defensive back is tied for the team lead in interceptions with one and has recorded 35 tackles for DWU (4-3, 3-2 GPAC). Sophomore linebacker Brady Bonte leads in tackles and sacks, with 62 and five, respectively.

If the Tigers do shut down Karls, the Warriors will look to running backs Alex Cornist and Corey Meshack. Cornist has rushed for 269 yards and three touchdowns, while Meshack has garnered 230 yards and one touchdown.

“We must take care of their quarterback,” Cimpl said. “He is there best player on the field. Our offense needs to control the ball. Midland is very good at forcing turnovers, so we need to hold on to the ball.”

Pressure is on Wesleyan’s offense to dictate play of the game and a key factor for the Tigers is running back Francois Barnaud. The Belle Fourche native leads the conference in rushing with 1,120 yards and 11 touchdowns on 172 carries. Last week, he touched the ball five times for 14 yards his lowest output of the season. With four games left, Barnaud is 182 yards shy of setting the DWU single-season rushing record. The record is 1,302 yards and is held by Barnaud’s predecessor Josh Endres.

“For us, everything comes from being able to run the football well,” Cimpl said. “If we can run the football, it will open everything else up for us because as soon as we become one dimensional against Midland, that will allow them to mix up their coverage.”

Barnaud is not the only Tiger within striking distance of setting a new school record. Senior wide receiver Anthony Muilenburg needs to haul in four passes to set the school’s career mark for reception. The record is 206 and is held by former DWU wide receiver Bubba Slaba. This season, Muilenburg has amassed 747 receiving yards on 43 catches.

Muilenburg may be called upon early and often in the contest if Midland (3-3, 2-3 GPAC) stalls the run game. DWU quarterback Jon Bane has been on point with his receivers this season as the four-year starter ranks third in the GPAC in total offense per game (252.6).

“We have to protect the football,” Midland’s second-year coach Josh Gehring said. “DWU probably has the most explosive trio of players in the conference. They are awfully good and they can do pretty much what they want, so we have to keep the ball away from them.”

Bane also ranks second in the conference in passing yards. He has completed 127 of 182 passes for 1,717 yards 17 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Midland will rely on defensive back Dalton Jenkins and the rest of its secondary to stymie the Wesleyan pass attack. Jenkins has a team-leading five interceptions.