Central Methodist will be Vikings' first guest
Paul Troth isn't even taking Central Methodist College lightly.
The weak Eagles, a whipping boy for Missouri Valley in 14 of the 15 years preceding Troth's arrival, become the first visitors to Gregg-Mitchell Field this season Saturday evening.
Despite the Vikings' dominating defensive performance during their 28-13 win at Lindenwood last week, Troth isn't looking past Saturday's game to the upcoming clash with defending Heart of America Conference champion Evangel on Sept. 21.
"We're not playing well enough to look past anybody," Troth declared. Central Methodist has "got some good athletes and they kind of scare me a little."
The "good athletes" that the Eagles possess were not nearly good enough last Saturday against Culver-Stockton, which saw former Marshall Owls standout Clint Grothaus throw for a school-record 376 yards at Fayette during the Wildcats' 32-8 win. However, Methodist (0-1, 0-1 HAAC) was able to put together a little offense of its own, with senior Ron Clark running for 50 yards on nine carries and junior Jeff Abbott throwing for 106 yards -- although completing just three of 15 passes with two interceptions.
"When you break it down to X's and O's, Central Methodist is not a bad team," Troth claimed. "They have a better offense that Lindenwood did. It's going to be hard for our defense to play as well as it did."
The Orange Crunch stuffed the Lions after their first two series, pushing them backwards in total yardage the rest of the game. Senior defensive end Chris Brown, getting four of the Vikings' eight takeaways, was the HAAC's "defensive player of the week."
"The guys started settling down and played good assignment football," Troth said. "Any time you hold a team to (107 yards in total offense), that's just an outstanding job."
Of greater concern to Troth and his staff is a Valley offense which was unable to cash in on numerous scoring opportunities. Of the eight possessions which began within LU's 30-yard line, only three resulted in scores.
"It's a new system, and we've got some young guys, so lots of inexperience is what the problem was," Troth explained. "It's one thing to get physically beat on a play, and another to make a lot of mental mistakes.
"We made a lot of mental mistakes," he noted. "Those are things we can fix."
Other than field-goal and extra-point kicking, Troth was happy with his special teams play. Freshman Ralph Volcin ran a kickoff back 89 yards for a touchdown and sophomore punter Rick Schwab -- though not recording an impressive yardage average -- was deadly in the field-position game, pinning Lindenwood inside its 20-yard line four times and its 10 twice.
The focus against Central Methodist will be to find some offensive consistency and fixing a few bugs here and there on defense and special teams while still developing young players for key roles in the tough weeks ahead. Fortunately, the Eagles are the kind of opponent which could provide Valley a margin for error.
Of course, Troth isn't buying that idea.
"Central Methodist is not a bad team," he declared, and may actually believe it.