Despite four turnovers, the Vikings claimed a 39-7 decision at Graceland to remain atop the Heart of America Conference standings.
"They made it a little tough," admitted MVC head coach Paul Troth. "The second half we didn't execute like we'd hoped, but we had control of the game by then."
The brightest sparkle on that rough diamond of a contest was senior tailback Zavier Steward, who gained 173 yards and scored four touchdowns on 13 carries. The previous week he had captured the Ted Chitwood Award as outstanding senior during Valley's Homecoming victory over Benedictine and was named the league's "player of the week" for 140-yard performance.
"It's just him being more comfortable, seeing things better and getting more in a rhythm," Troth explained. "I also think our offensive line is executing better."
Improved blocking alone doesn't account for Steward's explosiveness, which saw him reel off TD dashes of 66 and 58 yards last week.
"If he gets a chance, he's a guy who can run with power," Troth said. "He can also run right by you if you don't take the right angle."
The Vikings face another run-first squad Saturday when HAAC foe Peru State comes to Gregg-Mitchell Field. The Bobcats feature the seventh-rated run offense in the NAIA (254.0 yards per game) and sophomore Ryan Ludlow leads the nation in scoring with 18 touchdowns in his 168 carries for 1,007 yards.
Peru State (4-4, 2-4 HAAC) also has a two-way threat with sophomore quarterback Bo Shepard directing the option.
"You have to make sure you have someone on the dive, someone on the quarterback and someone on the pitch man every play," Troth said. "It takes away a lot of your playbook. You have to be much more vanilla and play assignment football."
The Bobcats rank seventh in the league in overall defense (397.5), but are fifth against the run (186.8).
"They play the option every day in practice, so they better be good against the run," Troth remarked, likening them to Benedictine in approach. "They read and react, keep everything in front of them and don't give up the big play."
A year ago, the Peru State gave the Vikings a hard time during a 13-0 home loss. Starting quarterback Bruce Reyes missed that game, in which Valley generated a below-average 322 yards in total offense.
"That's what they want," Troth said about the low-scoring contest. "We didn't execute very well up there."
The Vikings (7-0, 6-0) are entering their stretch run, closing in the opportunity to win their first out-right HAAC title since 2006 and put themselves in position for home-field advantage for at least the first two rounds of the NAIA Championship Series.
"We have three games left, and all three teams have some guys," Troth said. "We're supposed to win, but you still have to go out and do it."