Muskingum using staunch defense in turnaround

There is most certainly some fight in these Muskies.

Muskingum University hasn’t compiled a winning season since 1995. It hasn’t had a non-losing season since 2003.

Yet here the Fighting Muskies stand, fresh off a 14-3 win against Wilmington with a 4-0 record and No. 36 ranking in the poll. And this, after a 3-7 season no less.

Just how are they getting down over in New Concord? In a word? Defense.

That was evident Saturday when a balanced offense which had been averaging nearly 25 points per game sputtered and totaled only 14 points.

Keep in mind, this game against a Wilmington team that waived the white flag early in surrendering 66 points to Mount Union the previous week.

But the Muskies’ staunch defensive unit was up to the task, enabling those 14 points to be more than satisfactory.

Muskingum owns the 14th best overall defensive statistically in Division III and the Muskies are rated in the top five in sacks, tackles for a loss, rushing defense and scoring defense. They lead the country with 6.5 sacks per game.

While not getting quite the press as linebackers Alex Thomas and Ethan Wetzel, local products Sean West from Bridgeport and Jake Antolak from St. Clairsville have performed above and beyond in their starting defensive line roles.

Both were relatively quiet statistically against Wilmington, but West is still near the top of the national and conference leaderboard for sacks.

They will need that effort Saturday at McConagha Field against a red-hot Heidelberg (3-1) which has scored a combined 96 points in its previous two contests.

The Student Princes are led by running back Germany Woods, whose 122 yards per game trails only Martins Ferry’s Jeremy Murray at Mount Union in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

Heidelberg averages 222 rushing yards per game. The Muskies? They give up, on average, only 54 yards per game.

A win Saturday will guarantee a non-losing season for Muskingum.

Against Wilmington, sophomore Dalton Smith from Barnesville added a rushing touchdown to his 187 yards passing. It was the first game in 2011 that Smith, who threw two interceptions, failed to throw a touchdown pass.

Division I

– Shaq Petteway, assisted two tackles, first official collegiate stats in WVUs 55-10 win against Bowling Green

– Steubenville’s Zach Collaros ran 15 times for 89 yards and passed for another 251 and a touchdown, completing 16 of 30 attempts in Cincinnati’s 27-0 blanking of Miami (Ohio). Beaver Local’s Derek Wolfe continued his strong season, charting six stops, including 1 for a loss.

– Big Red’s Dwight Macon hauled in a 33-yard touchdown pass for Toledo in a 36-13 win against Temple.

Division II

– Martins Ferry’s Marco Richetti had eight tackles,and a fumble recovery as the struggling West Liberty Hilltoppers fell hard to Glenville St. Wheeling Park’s Alec Wood had four stops and an interception for the ‘Toppers.

Division III

– Murray again led the Purple Raiders with 130 yards and two scores on 41 carries, a career high for single-game carries for the junior. Mount Union, ranked No. 2 in Division III, defeated Ohio Northern 14-6

– Steubenville Central’s Brian DeFranco had four tackles and a sack as Washington & Jefferson edged Presidents’ Athletic Conference rival Westminster. Fellow former Crusaders standout Mickey Bednar backed DeFranco with three tackles.

– The defensive effort from East Liverpool’s Ethan Ludwig was the only bright spot in an otherwise forgettable 50-7 Thiel loss to Thomas More. Ludwig had 13 tackles and a fumble recovery for the Tomcats.

– Buckeye Trail’s Dan Starr charted eight tackles and a sack in Marietta’s loss to Baldwin-Wallace

– Steubenville’s Jordan McIntyre had eight receptions for 77 yards in Wooster’s 27-13 loss to Denison.

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