After Jalen Durham began establishing himself as a force in the middle of Washburn’s defensive line, a nickname of some sort seemed in order for the 6-foot-2, 320-pound nose guard.
Playing off his Georgia roots, an appropriate moniker was coined for Durham, now known in Washburn circles as “The Big Peach.”
“It was something that me and Jake Lebahn (WIBW Radio sportscaster) talked about last year,” Durham said. “We were going over nicknames and he kind of liked that one, seeing that I was from Georgia. It kind of stuck.
“I’ve had people come up to me and call me that. I have a big sign that my family made that says ‘Big Peach’ on it.”
“The Big Peach” helped spearhead a strong showing for Washburn’s defensive line in a 20-14 loss to No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri State last Thursday. The Ichabods (1-1) will play Lindenwood (1-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in St. Charles, Mo.
Durham batted away two passes against the Bearcats and made six tackles.
“Against a physical team like Northwest, (Durham) was big because they like to run the ball inside,” Wahsburn coach Craig Schurig said. “He engulfed a lot of plays for zero or a very small gain.
“He’s an athletic kid and really strong. He’s playing his best football right now.”
Durham, a native of Columbus, Ga., played a year at Mesa Community College before transferring to WU, where he’s started 24 of 25 games with the Ichabods. He has 77 career tackles and 14 for loss.
“I was recruited out of juco by (WU co-defensive coordinator Zach) Watkins,” Durham said. “He came up to the school and I kind of liked how he would stay on me and text me and see how everything was going. I came on a visit and I liked the facilities and I liked the players that they had, so I thought it was worth it.”
Durham said Washburn’s effort against the Bearcats proves the Ichabods can impose their will up front against any team in the MIAA.
“We take every game we play as a challenge,” Durham said. “We want to show we can dominate every game we play.
“We feel like if we come with that same attitude and mentality, then we can compete with any team in this conference.”
Schurig acknowledged during Washburn’s weekly media conference that quarterback Logan Twehous “got banged up” in the Northwest game. As of early Wednesday afternoon, Schurig said Twehous’ status for Saturday was still being evaluated.
Twehous, who started the first two games, has been splitting snaps with Blake Peterson. Twehous has completed 18 of 30 passes for 155 yards with three touchdowns and one interception while also also rushing for a pair of TDs. Peterson is 11 of 25 through the air for 109 yards with one touchdown and no picks.
Schurig said Washburn was also evaluating Curtis Whitten’s availability for Saturday after the running back left Thursday’s game with a leg injury.
SCOUTING THE LIONS
The matchup with Lindenwood sets up as a strength-on-strength battle in the ground game.
The Lions rushed for a school-record 417 yards last week in a 49-10 over Northeastern State, while Washburn has allowed only 161 combined yards on the ground through the first two games.
Shakeem Wharton led the team with 103 rushing yards while Calen Campbell had 86 and quarterback Najee Jackson added 82. Jackson also threw for 208 yards with three touchdowns.
“They got a very explosive offense,” WU senior linebacker Austin Tillman said. “Their quarterback is a great athlete and they got great athletes all around. Their offensive line is big and solid. Putting up that many yards against Northeastern last week, you can’t look past that.
“We know every team in this conference is going to be a challenge and if you let down or hold back, any week you have the opportunity to get beat. We just have to go out there and play our football, play Bod ball.”
Jed Stugart picked up his first win as Lions head coach last week after a successful seven year-run at Sioux Falls, compiling a 65-17 record.
WASHBURN AT LINDENWOOD
Kickoff: 6 p.m. Saturday, Hunter Stadium, St. Charles, Mo.
Records: Washburn 1-1, 1-1 MIAA, Lindenwood 1-1, 1-1
Radio: KTPK-FM (106.9)
Next: Nebraska-Kearney at Washburn, 1 p.m. Sept. 23