Braves expect battle from Coyotes

Greg Mast
The Ottawa University defense's gang tackle mentality will be key in Saturday's game in Salina against the high-powered Kansas Wesleyan offense.

Kansas Wesleyan’s football team may not be as powerful as in the past two years, but it still is a formidable team.

Ottawa University football coach Kent Kessinger said the Coyotes have the ability to dominate opponents, despite their recent struggles.

“They do have some (talented players),” he said. “Stevie Williams is a tremendous football player that they have on the offensive side of the football. They can move the ball and will score some points.”

Ottawa (4-1, 3-1) plays its fourth straight road game Saturday in Salina against the Coyotes (4-2, 3-2). It is a key KCAC matchup as both teams are fighting to stay in striking distance of undefeated Bethel.

Ottawa’s game with Tabor on Nov. 21 has been postponed and will be played during the spring. Ottawa will now play Southwestern next Saturday at AdventHealth Field.

Kansas Wesleyan, which was ranked No. 6 in the latest NAIA poll, lost two of its past three games.

“They have played some pretty good teams,” Kessinger said. “They played Southwestern and Avila and those two schools are the real deal.”

Kansas Wesleyan sports an explosive offense. The Coyotes are No. 3 in the nation in passing offense (320 yards) and No. 7 in total yards (512).

Ottawa’s rushing offense is No. 8 at 221 yards. Derrick Curtis leads the nation in rushing at 152 yards per game.

Kessinger said the Coyotes passing game is set up by their ground game.

“The power game is their bread and butter,” he said. “They build their passing game off of that.”

Kessinger said they like to run play-action to free up Williams, who is No. 7 in the nation in receiving yards per game (103).

“They are a strong football team,” Kessinger said. “We have to know when we can get after the quarterback. You have to put pressure on the quarterback and make [him] uncomfortable. If the quarterback is uncomfortable, it does not matter how good the receiver is.”

Ottawa has made quarterbacks uncomfortable all season. The Braves racked up 18 sacks, which ranks No. 11 in the nation. The Braves have 10 sacks in their past two games.

Kessinger said the success of the Ottawa offense is keeping defenses guessing.

“The key is keeping the defense out of balance,” he said. “If they want to take away the run, you have to be able to throw the football and have to win matchups. Our receivers have to do something with it.”

The Ottawa offense was as balanced as it has all season against Friends. Ottawa finished with 197 yards passing and 237 yards rushing. Ottawa had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver against Friends.