After a stagnant second half halted Washburn’s upset against No. 8-ranked Fort Hays State last week, the Ichabods are embracing the chance to rebound against another top-tier MIAA team.
Washburn will take on Central Missouri at 1 p.m. for Saturday’s homecoming at Yager Stadium in a matchup of 5-2 teams looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.
WU coach Craig Schurig said he’s been encouraged by the response of his team after a 37-20 loss to FHSU last week.
“Our kids have been great. I thought they had a great attitude,” Schurig said. “We bring them in on Sundays and they watch the film intently. You can learn a lot from games like that and I thought they learned.
“They see the importance of this game. Central Missouri and us are in the same boat. Both lost to the same teams, both are 5-2 and there’s plenty of football left. If you can take care of business and do well this game, you’ve got a shot as the season goes on.”
Washburn held a 10-point lead at halftime against Fort Hays State but gave up 27 points unanswered points to the Tigers in the second half.
“Both offense and defense, we watched the film and we can just learn from it,” WU quarterback Blake Peterson said. “We got to take this as a learning experience and get better from it. We got a great opportunity to play another a great team and get right back on track with a win this week. We’re right where we want to be as a long as we take it as a learning experience and are ready to play Saturday.”
Central Missouri lost 35-6 to Hays in the second week of the season, but the Mules’ only other loss was a 24-20 heartbreaker to No. 1-ranked Northwest Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium, with the Bearcats scoring the game-winning touchdown with seven seconds left.
UCM, which has won the last five matchups with Washburn dating back to 2009, is averaging a league-best 39.9 points per game. The Mules pounded Missouri Southern 71-22 last week while putting up 726 yards of offense.
Central quarterback Brook Bolles is 141 of 260 passing with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, averaging 302.1 yards per game. Jaylen Zachery is his top target with with 30 receptions for 473 yards.
“Their offense is just really explosive,” WU senior safety Peter Pfannenstiel said. “They got really great athletes all around at all their skill positions and they got a tough O-line. Cutting out those explosive and big plays that we gave up last week will be huge. We kind of have to have a bend-but-don’t-break mentality. If they are driving the ball really well, either hold them or make them kick a field goal.”
Central’s defense is ranked sixth in the MIAA in total defense allowing 372.7 yards per game. Washburn is sitting ninth in total offense with 364.9 yards per game
“They’re extremely athletic,” Peterson said. “They really trust their secondary. They’ll play cover zero and no safety help. They’ll play man-to-man all across the board and that’s tough to do. That’s putting a lot of pressure on your corners and safeties to guard a receiver man-to-man with no help. So if our receivers can win this week there’s opportunities for big plays.
“Running the ball, if you break through that first line of defense there’s no safety to make a play 10, 15 yards. You break through the first line, he’s gone. There’s opportunities for big plays against them, but they’re extremely athletic and it’s obviously worked for them pretty well so far. Nothing’s going to come easy.”
CENTRAL MISSOURI AT WASHBURN
Tipoff: 1 p.m. Saturday, Yager Stadium
Records: Central Missouri 5-2, 5-2 MIAA, Washburn 5-2, 5-2
Radio: KTPK-FM (106.9)
Next: Washburn at Missouri Western, 2 p.m. Oct. 28, St. Joseph, Mo.