No. 6 Vikings welcome Evangel for Homecoming

Friday, October 18, 2013
Junior wideout Jarrell Davis is one of the key return specialists for the Vikings. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

Homecoming is an annual event which gives some football coaches concern, but Missouri Valley College's Paul Troth shrugs it off.

"For the coaches, it's not much different; our game-week preparation doesn't change," he explained. Although there's more family and alumni around, "the players are excited about playing in front of a good crowd."

The sixth-ranked Vikings should be feeling good about themselves following last week's 35-7 Heart of America Conference win at Graceland, which -- unlike their previous two road games -- was not a study in first-half futility.

"We were able to score some points, which we hadn't done in a couple of previous away games," noted Troth, whose squad had only managed one touchdown before the break in each. "Our kids had a much better week of practices leading up to the game."

They'll have to be dialed in Saturday to take on an Evangel squad which entered the season with high hopes, but has scuffled out of the gate -- including last week's 44-14 loss at Central Methodist.

"They played with several of their offensive starters out, including their quarterback," offensive tackle and three receivers, Troth acknowledged. "That was tough for them to overcome."

Not having senior quarterback Andrew Brimhall available was especially hampering, since he has the league's fourth-best efficiency rating (125.6) and leads the Crusaders (2-3, 2-2 HAAC) in rushing with 320 yards.

"He just makes plays," said Troth, whose team couldn't shake Evangel until the fourth quarter of last year's 35-21 win at Springfield. "A quarterback who can extend the play and has good receivers is a tough thing."

While Evangel's offense had been effective until last week, its defense has struggled mightily and is currently last in the league in points allowed (36.8 per game) and total yardage (434.0). Troth attributes that to the Crusaders' youth and gambling style.

"They bring a lot of pressure and play a lot of man-to-man," he said. "It's feast or famine. They make a lot of plays and keep you off-balance."

The Vikings (4-1, 4-0) have an offensive approach that is almost diametrically opposite, relying on the running game to control the clock and reduce risk.

"The difficulty with playing this style of defense is that it's hard to get into a rhythm," Troth claimed. "It's nothing, nothing, big play."

Valley hasn't been consistent running the ball this season. Other than a high of 250 yards against MidAmerica Nazarene, the Vikings haven't gained more than 176 yards and twice been held under 100.

"We need to come out, have success on offense and take a little sting out of them," Troth said.

Allowing any opponent to stay close is perilous, as Valley found out a year ago when playing the Crusaders, and Troth doesn't want to see a re-run.

"We can't let them stay in the game," he asserted. "That will make them harder and harder to beat."

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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