Two contrasting offensive styles will meet 6 p.m. today when No. 8 Ottawa University (4-1, 3-0) takes on Saint Mary (3-2, 2-1) at Peoples Bank Field
Saint Mary averages more than 400 yards passing, while the Braves average 213 yards rushing. Saint Mary threw for nearly 550 yards last week against Bethel.
“They throw the ball really well,” Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said. “Sometimes we get complacent. This is a week we can’t get complacent at all. The thing about a passing attack you can eat up yards and get some points up on the board really quick. The passing teams scare me more than the running teams. They can create big plays. We have had some pretty good passing teams here in the past, so I know what it can be like.”
Spires freshman quarterback Josh Ervin has been able to air it out on all opponents so far.
“Let’s hope we are better than some of the teams they faced and we can put more pressure on him,” Kessinger said. “He seems to find open spots. He’s got two really good receivers that he is playing pitch and catch.
“The big thing we have to stop is big plays. They make most of their points outside of the 20-yard line on big plays. We need to make them go long drives. Give them opportunities to make mistakes. I don’t have a problem giving up yards. We want to make sure we keep points off the board.”
The Spires have clicked off 20- and 30-yard pass plays all season.
“Hopefully we don’t see a lot of that,” Kessinger said. “We can take care of the football on offense and make them have to match it. It will put more pressure on them.”
The Ottawa defensive line has been a big key to the success of the Braves. Ottawa limited McPherson to 279 yards last week.
“We’ve got all new guys playing in there,” Kessinger said. “We’ve been rotating a lot of guys in on the inside. They have done a good job. Some are undersized. They just play hard. Our linebacking play has been good too.
“This is one of those games that we will get tested. We will see how good we are as pass rushing and coverage guys. They will try to spread us out.”
Kessinger said Saint Mary will attempt to slow down Ottawa’s pass rush with screens.
“We have to be smart in where we go after them,” he said.
The Ottawa offense has a chance to keep rolling. Saint Mary’s defense gives up nearly 400 yards per game. The Spires like to blitz.
“There is going to be a lot of boom or bust plays,” Kessinger said. “The key is we break more plays than they get us. I am hoping we can be disciplined in what we do and create some of those big plays.
“We have a better compliment to our quarterback in our running backs. Dexter [Hayes] improved from last year. Add Luke [Lundy] to the mix. Our offensive line is more physical than in the past.”
Ottawa’s third down percentage is 36 percent, which is down from past seasons.
“We need to convert more on third down,” Kessinger said. “We have to stay out of long yardage situations. We spent a lot of time on third down. We will face a team that plays a lot of man-to-man. We have to stay focused on our blocks.”
Kessinger said special teams will play a big role in the game. Saint Mary returned two kicks for touchdowns against Bethel. Ottawa has done a good job in covering kicks and Travis Adamson has been solid in the punt game.
“A key part of our game is special teams,” Kessinger said. “We’ve spent more and more time this year on special teams. “It really made us more disciplined in what we are doing. We know what our rules are.”