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DWU looks to snap losing skid at Briar Cliff

SIOUX CITY--Dakota Wesleyan University is in danger of suffering its first three-game losing streak since 2011 when it takes the field at Briar Cliff University at 1 p.m. today.

Dakota Wesleyan University's Shaye Slaughter runs past Northwestern's Sean Powell, while DWU's Jonny Withrow blocks Liam Stubbe on Sept. 22 at Joe Quintal Field. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan University's Shaye Slaughter runs past Northwestern's Sean Powell, while DWU's Jonny Withrow blocks Liam Stubbe on Sept. 22 at Joe Quintal Field. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

SIOUX CITY-Dakota Wesleyan University is in danger of suffering its first three-game losing streak since 2011 when it takes the field at Briar Cliff University at 1 p.m. today.

The Tigers (1-3, 0-2 GPAC) are coming off a 41-13 loss to No. 5 Northwestern College on Sept. 22, while the Chargers (3-1, 1-1) suffered its first loss of the season last week, losing 56-0 to No. 2 Morningside College.

Here are three things to look for in today's game between Dakota Wesleyan and Briar Cliff:

Improved kicking

A positive that has come out of the past two weeks has been Tate Gale emerging as a reliable kicker for the Tigers, going 4-for-4 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points. He and Jon Wilhelmsen started the season 0-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-11 on extra points.

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"It takes a ton of pressure off our offense," DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said. "Having the option to kick a field goal versus going for it on fourth down, that makes a big difference."

DWU also has a new kickoff man in Noah Vettrus, who Cimpl recruited out of high school but played on the basketball team the past two seasons. He had a touchback against Morningside, then averaged 59 yards per kickoff against Northwestern.

"He has a big leg," Cimpl said. "He may not be as fine-tuned as Tate, but he's a talented kid who we've known about."

Getting off the field

DWU's defense often forced Morningside and Northwestern into third-and-longs or fourth downs, but the Tigers still struggled finishing the drive. The Mustangs and Red Raiders converted 46.7 percent (14-for-30) of third downs and 80 percent (4-for-5) of fourth downs.

While the Chargers don't have as prolific of an offense, they still have converted 45.9 percent of third downs.

To improve this week, Cimpl is trying to put less on his players' plates on third and fourth down.

"We had different guys playing different positions to try to highlight their ability, but it was hard for them to separate what they were doing before with what we wanted them to do," Cimpl said. "So that's on us as coaches."

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Wildcat offense

DWU has averaged two yards per carry over the past two weeks and faces a Briar Cliff defense giving up the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Cimpl made note of the Chargers' man-to-man coverage allowing them to bring an extra pass rusher, as well as a physical defensive line.

Last week, Spencer Neugebauer led an offense that played out of the wildcat formation for most of the second half. However, he'll eventually have to throw to keep defenses off-balanced.

Although, for the run game to get back on track, the Tigers need to see consistency from all areas.

"(DWU running back Luke) Loudenburg has to be more definitive in his run fits," Cimpl said. "Offensive line needs to get more movement. We've seen us do it, but it's not consistent."

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