Orange D crushes No. 6 MidAmerica
OLATHE, Kan. -- Junior safety Brian Bell can tell the difference in his unit.
"Last year we may have had more individual talent, but this year every time the ball is out we try to get 11 to the ball," said Bell, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble during Missouri Valley College's shocking 23-13 victory Saturday at sixth-ranked MidAmerica Nazarene, the defending Heart of America Conference champion. "We conditioned more and play together."
The Vikings defense may have turned in its best performance since the days of the Orange Crunch gang of the late '90s by holding MNU to a mere 195 yards in total offense, including a paltry 16 rushing yards. Defensive coordinator Chad Haynes, after watching his group finish last in the league in run defense a year ago, took pains to make sure it was ready this time -- holding meetings five nights in a row during the preceding week.
"That's unheard of," he noted. "We've got kids who want to win."
That showed itself from the opening moments of the game, when -- a minute after senior Chad Scott intercepted MVC junior Roy Harden on the game's first play -- Bell picked off a pass by junior Jimmy Werbin.
"We were confident from then on," Haynes remarked.
The kicking game also worked in Valley's favor. After Viking sophomore Tyler Fennewald dropped a punt inside the Pioneers' 10-yard line, senior Josh Umphrey shanked a try to set up junior Gary Burley's 40-yard field goal.
On their next possession, Valley put together a 15-play, 80-yard drive, aided by a pass interference call. Sophomore Manny Dent had runs of 13 and 14 yards before Harden sneaked over the goal line from a yard out.
"My O-line was making good blocks," explained Dent, who came in when sophomore Ralph Volcin twisted an ankle and gained 136 yards on 30 carries. "I can only do what they let me do."
Special teams came up big for the Vikings when junior Tarrence Rhodes blocked a punt and sophomore Ian Simons scooped the ball and dashed 12 yards for a TD to make it 17-0.
"Even though it was early in the game, that was huge," said Valley head coach Paul Troth.
More impressive is that after an emotion-deflating 85-yard return by senior Joel Johnson to the MVC 7 on the ensuring kickoff, MidAmerica was unable to score. Junior Jason May was in on two stops and freshman Fred Hoskins knocked down a fourth-down pass as the Vikings staged a goal-line stand.
"The main thing is they didn't get their heads down," Haynes asserted. "We had a little moxie."
Werbin completed passes of 32 yards to senior Brandon Smiley and 22 yards to senior Nate Schmidt for a TD before halftime, but that didn't faze Valley's defense -- which didn't give the Pioneers a first down on their first eight series after the break and limited their second-half time of possession to a mere 6:47.
"It was really good to see our defense dominate," Troth declared. "We shut down their run and made them throw."
Of course, as Troth said, "if you chuck it deep enough, you're going to hit one" - which MidAmerica did with a 48-yard bomb to senior James Booth with 8:09 left in the game. However, coming after Burley kicked field goals of 26 and 30 yards, that only narrowed the margin to 10 points and didn't rattle the Vikings. "They weren't getting anything consistent," Troth said.
Neither was Valley's offense, although three straight second-half series consumed 21 plays for 99 yards and nearly 13:25 of the clock. Dent ripped off an 18-yard run and junior David Williams picked up 22 yards on four straight carries for a pair of first downs on one drive, then Dent took a screen pass 33 yards on the next.
"We got ourselves out of a hole, but we didn't finish out drives like we wanted," Troth said, confessing "concern" over the Vikings' four turnovers. "The thing was, when we turned it over the defense played well enough that we were able to control it."
Senior Daniel Catlin had six tackles and forced a fourth-quarter fumble and junior Mike Matranga had a sack among his five stops, helping to pressure Werbin into misfiring on 22 of his 33 pass attempts.
The victory was Valley's first over MNU since a 28-24 slugfest in '98 -- since when the Pioneers (0-1, 0-1 HAAC) had won five straight by a combined 215-44 margin. While the victory was a lift, it was still only a start to the season for the Vikings (1-0, 1-0).
"That just one. There aren't any breathers," Troth cautioned, looking ahead to the home opener against dangerous Avila. However, "we have the players who should be able to compete with anybody."
Bell agreed: "When we play with discipline, nobody can beat us."