Winless Earlham College paying visit to DC

By LYNN GROLL groll@crescent-news.com Published:

It goes without saying it's been a whirlwind week for the Defiance College football program.

Last Saturday, the Yellow Jackets made the trek south to The College of Mount St. Joseph and picked up their first win of the season by beating the Cincinnati institution for the first time at their place since 2001, 23-13.

But just three days later, the program's winningest coach, Robert Taylor, abruptly resigned to send shockwaves through the program and the college.

Defensive coordinator and former Yellow Jacket Nate Jensen has taken over controls of the program as the interim coach.

"Right now we've got to get focused and get back into our daily routine and get into our routine where guys are concentrating on what they have to do next," said Jensen. "Moving on to the next play. If there's one thing that coach Taylor has always taught us is, yes in life you're going to deal with adversity, but what you do and how you respond to that and moving onto the next play is what is going to help define that."

While the Jackets (1-4, 1-2 HCAC) look for back-to-back wins with Earlham coming to town on Saturday for a 1:30 p.m. contest, Earlham mentor Gerry Keesling is hoping the Quakers can post their first HCAC victory after joining the conference last season. Earlham went 0-8 in the HCAC in 2010 and stands 0-6 overall and 0-4 in the HCAC this year.

"Coming from the Northcoast (Conference) to the Heartland, there's a lot of parity in the Heartland," said Keesling. "I think it shows just like last week when Defiance upset Mount St. Joe. We have to do better at getting better players on the field and performing at a more consistent basis. I love our attitude. There's a lot of adversity that we've went through like a lot of teams do. To not have a win, these guys come to practice every day and they work and they give us everything they have with smiles on their faces. They love being college students and playing college football and being how blessed they are."

Earlham is last in scoring offense (8.3 ppg) and also last in scoring defense (37.7 ppg) in the HCAC.

Jensen knows the Earlham program well since he was an assistant at Manchester College when the Spartans played Earlham annually.

"I know coach Keesling very well from my last job since we played them before they joined the conference," said Jensen. "Coach Keesling and his coaches coach their tails off, they are really good coaches. I have a lot of respect for those guys, their players play really hard and it's going to be exciting to see how we play against really good coaches like that."

Jensen is hopeful his team feeds off the victory over Mount St. Joseph.

"It was exciting because we played as an entire team, finally," said Jensen. "We played all four quarters, we didn't worry about anything. They (Mount St. Joseph) went down and scored late and we came back from that and responded with a score of our own. Then we got the big turnover and got to see Gregg Pickett run down the sidelines (for a pick-six), which I was the reason why we got a personal conduct penalty because I was at the five-yard line. But we played together as an entire team ... it was awesome and everything was working."

The senior tandem of QB Rick Powell and tailback Drew Kuesel direct the DC offense. Powell has 233 yards rushing and Kuesel follows with 218 yards.

Senior linebackers Seth Shipley (51 tackles) and Aaron Barth (50 tackles), both from Springfield Shawnee in Ohio, spearhead the Earlham defense.

Outscored 226-50 this year, Earlham will hope to put some points on the board against Defiance's defense led by linebacker Hunter Robertson's 39 stops and defensive back Eric Rubio's 32 tackles.

The Jackets also possess a dangerous return specialist with Tony Sierra averaging 20.2 yards per punt return and just under 20 yards per kick return. He returned a punt 84 yards last week for a touchdown in the win over MSJ.

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