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DWU looks to halt Mustangs today

The start of Great Plains Athletic Conference play provides an immediate challenge for the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers as second-ranked Morningside College comes to Joe Quintal Field.

Dakota Wesleyan University's Sam Naasz (52) and Eathen Gaulke (1) celebrate a Naasz interception as Kaleb Edwards (98) is also involved in the play during a game against Dakota State University on Aug. 23 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan University's Sam Naasz (52) and Eathen Gaulke (1) celebrate a Naasz interception as Kaleb Edwards (98) is also involved in the play during a game against Dakota State University on Aug. 23 at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The start of Great Plains Athletic Conference play provides an immediate challenge for the Dakota Wesleyan University Tigers as second-ranked Morningside College comes to Joe Quintal Field.

DWU (1-1) is coming off a bye week following a 64-37 win over Presentation on Sept. 1 for its first win of the season, while the Mustangs (2-0) beat NCAA Division II Truman State 35-17 last week on the road. The Tigers are 6-26-1 all-time against the Mustangs, though they haven’t beaten them since Ross Cimpl took over in 2012.

Here are three things to look for in today’s game between Dakota Wesleyan and Morningside:

Kicking woes DWU can’t leave points on the field like in its previous two games. The Tigers have tried two kickers thus far in Jon Wilhelmsen and Tate Gale, who made his return from ACL surgery against Presentation, yet are just 4-for-12 on extra points and 0-for-2 on field goals.

It’s led to some early-season psychological hurdles for the Tigers’ kickers, but Cimpl believes the bye week has helped with those and improving on technique.

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Cimpl also didn’t put all the blame on his kickers, citing protection has to get better, too. Despite the struggles, he believes his team’s field-goal range is 40 yards as Gale made a 42-yarder in high school and a 40-yarder during this week’s practice.

“If we need to kick a 43-yard game winner, we’d have a shot at it,” Cimpl said.

Intercepting Solsma DWU’s secondary has taken impressive strides this season, which Cimpl credits to experience. It is sixth in passing defense in the GPAC and is tied for a conference-high four interceptions.

That said, intercepting Morningside senior quarterback Trent Solsma won’t be easy. Solsma has thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions this season and has been picked off 11 times in his career on 923 pass attempts.

However, Cimpl won’t make major changes to his defensive scheme this week to avoid confusing his defense. In order to slow down Solsma, it’s critical that DWU takes away his first read.

“He’s a guy that has weapons at his disposal, a guy who has seen a lot of different looks,” Cimpl said. “He knows where the soft spots are and gets it to those areas a lot of those times.”

Breakout receiving games DWU has benefitted from breakout-receiving performances from true freshman Daniel Libolt and former running back Jonny Withrow in back-to-back weeks.

However, DWU will face its toughest secondary to date as Morningside, led by senior safety Xavier Spann, allows the fewest passing yards per game in the GPAC. Cimpl praised the Mustangs’ discipline and athleticism heading into the game.

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The Tigers have plenty of receiving options for Shaye Slaughter to throw to, but no one has stood out as DWU’s go-receiver yet.

“Last year with Hayden Adams, we were a little more predictable in those go-to scenarios that we needed him to make a play,” Cimpl said. “And he did, he made a lot of those plays for us. Right now, I don’t see us having that.”

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