DWU looks to snap three-game skid at Doane
CRETE, Neb. -- Dakota Wesleyan University is searching for answers after a lopsided first three weeks.
The Tigers have been outscored 142-33 during an 0-3 start, including a 47-10 loss in their home opener against Dordt (Iowa) a week ago. Now, it heads back on the road for another Great Plains Athletic Conference game at 1 p.m. today against Doane (Neb.), a team it hasn’t beaten since 2014.
DWU’s offensive approach
DWU has been held scoreless in seven of 12 quarters, and it only has 10 first-half points this year. It led to the Tigers mixing things up to find any sort of rhythm offensively.
Zachary Lester remains the starting quarterback, but Mitchell native Kiel Nelson saw his first action of the season against Dordt. The Tigers specifically utilized his running ability, as he led the team with 32 rushing yards and broke off a 30-yard gain.
“He’s got a little bit different ability in terms of (running),” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “If we can go 11-on-11 against the defense and they let us do that, we need to take advantage.”
Lester returned after two drives and stayed at quarterback until the game’s final drive. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown, compared to Nelson’s 4-for-8 passing for 97 yards.
When the Tigers fell behind, it opted toward Lester and his 60.5 percent completion rate. But if DWU can stick around, the new wrinkle of Nelson running proved effective and adds another package teams need to prepare for.
“It’s a matter of picking and choosing when we’re able to do that and how it’s going to look,” Cimpl said.
Along with Nelson, former wide receiver Jaden Bloemendaal saw his most action at running back this year. He rushed four times for 20 years, as Emery native Jamin Arend saw a career-low six carries. Cimpl acknowledged he hopes to get Arend more carries against Doane, but more importantly, DWU is looking for any sort of answers on offense.
“We’ve got to find a rhythm offensively. Whether that’s throwing the ball 30 times in a row, or running it 40 times in a row,” Cimpl said. “... Ideally, we want him to get some more carries, but based on last week, we had to throw the football.”
Doane’s running game
While DWU worked through multiple looks on offense, Doane (2-1) spent last Saturday rushing for 320 yards on eight yards per carry against Hastings (Neb.). Doane’s 187.7 rushing yards per contest ranks second in the GPAC to only Dordt, which runs an option offense.
It starts with a physical offensive line, which caused DWU problems last week. Doane also features one of the best running combos in the conference, though. Jamaine Deroene (93) and Jacobi White (64.3) rank third and eighth, respectively, in rushing yards per game in the GPAC.
Meanwhile, DWU has allowed a conference-worst 284 rushing yards per game. Its run defense ranks 44th out of 45 NAIA teams.
“Hopefully we can stay one step ahead,” Cimpl said. “Whether that’s bringing pressure on downs they’re not expecting it, or switching our front up. Or changing up our look a little bit just to change confusion.”