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DWU run game gives offense balance

Dakota Wesleyan University coach Ross Cimpl always stresses the difficulty of playing against dual-threat quarterbacks as it makes it true 11-on-11 football.

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Dakota Wesleyan University coach Ross Cimpl always stresses the difficulty of playing against dual-threat quarterbacks as it makes it true 11-on-11 football.

Midland University quarterback Payton Nelson seemed to be a perfect example, ranking in the top 10 of the Great Plains Athletic Conference in rushing and passing yards per game heading into last Saturday, but by the end of Midland's 21-14 win, it was DWU who was utilizing its quarterback more effectively in the run game.

Nelson left with an injury, but the Tigers still held him to just two rushes of five yards or more, albeit one was a 14-yard touchdown scamper. On the opposite side, DWU quarterback Shaye Slaughter capped an 11-play, 61-yard opening drive with a nine-yard touchdown run on a read-option.

He finished with three runs of five-plus yards, which comes after a 16-yard touchdown run last week against Dordt.

"It all kind of depends what defense will be facing us that week," Cimpl said on Slaughter's involvement in the run game. "... We've shifted our focus to being able to (run with Slaughter) and putting ourself in a position where everyone's a threat on the field."
It was more than just Slaughter making the right red-zone read or him breaking off a 13-yard third-quarter gain, though. For the first time since the first two weeks of the season, DWU established its run game and had a balanced attack.

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It helps that the pass game got off to quick start, with Slaughter completing seven passes for 43 yards on the opening drive. However, Canova native Luke Loudenburg also made better reads.

"I thought he did a nice job seeing what was in front of him and getting vertical," Cimpl said.

Loudenburg built on his 3.6 yards per carry from a week ago to rush for 108 yards, his second-highest total this season, at a 4.5 yard clip. He also had four rushes of at least 10 yards, while only losing yards three times.

However, Cimpl made sure to give credit to the offensive line, as well, despite it giving up three sacks.

"I thought our offensive line did a great job creating movement," Cimpl said. "... They created movement, they got off the ball and put us in a position to hit the seams and fall forward for positive yards."

While for only small gains, wide receivers Jonny Withrow (three yards) and Mitchell native Spencer Neugebauer (two) once again showed the many options DWU has for its run game. Both are converted running backs, with Neugebauer getting carries in all but one game this season and Withrow receiving his first three over the last two weeks.

For the Tigers, it's about trying to get their most explosive players the ball in space, even if it's not perfected yet.

A 'work in progress' is how Cimpl referred to his entire offense this week, though. While it scored fewer than 15 points for the fifth time during its six-game losing streak, DWU had arguably its most balanced offensive attack since an 822-yard performance at Presentation on Sept. 1.

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"It's a work in progress for us, but there's signs of what we're capable of," Cimpl said. "Being able to throw the ball early and opening up some things in the run game and keeping teams off-balanced is what we need to do."

The Tigers (1-7, 0-6 GPAC) play University of Jamestown at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Jamestown, North Dakota.

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