WHAT - Elmhurst College Bluejays vs Loras College Duhawks
WHERE - Langhorst Field, Elmhurst, IL
WHEN - 1:00 p.m., Sept. 2, 2017
LAST SEASON - Bluejays 28, Duhawks 27
TELEVISION - Live stream available at BlueJayTV.com
TICKETS - Students w/Jaypass admitted free, $6 adult, $3 student/senior
WEATHER - 77 degrees, Sunny
Elmhurst Head Coach: Ron Planz
Loras Head Coach: Steve Helminiak
EC 2016 record: 5-5 (4-4 CCIW)
Loras 2016 record: 1-9 (1-7 IIAC)
6-1, EC vs Loras since 2010
14-3, EC record in last 17 season openers
Despite a Tristan Bolas pick-six on the second play from scrimmage, Loras built a 27-9 lead that they took into the fourth quarter of play. The Bluejays rallied late, led by another pick-six (from 2016 senior Sean Wetherell) and an Orlando Hernandez touchdown pass with 3:07 remaining that brought home the victory.
WHEN THE BLUEJAYS HAVE THE BALL:
EC Offense: Spread - Base Personnel: 1 RB, 4 WR/ 1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR
Loras Defense: 3-4
EC players to watch: Junior QB Orlando Hernandez 12, Junior RB Ben Holloway 5, Junior WR Austin McKellar 1, Sophomore WR Jawan Gaines 83
Loras players to watch: RS Senior LB Mark Tilkes 22, Senior LB Bob Brophy 55, Sophomore CB Riley Larson 21, Junior S Walter Ollie 6
Run O vs Loras
The Bluejays running game revolves around the inside and outside zone concepts. In order to consistently run those plays, senior center Garrett Underwood will lead an offensive line that will have to play disciplined against an aggressive Duhawks 3-4 front that likes to keep seven defenders in the box against the run.
Loras graduated their top three tacklers from 2016, leaving Bob Brophy as the top returner (65 tackles in 2016). Brophy figures to be the Duhawks strong side linebacker this season and if the Bluejays offensive line can find a way to consistently reach him in second level of the Loras defense, EC running backs will have a big day.
Pass O vs Loras
During last season’s matchup, the Duhawks tended to play with a single safety high over the middle of the field. Bluejays head coach Ron Planz expressed a desire to expand his team's’ downfield passing attack this season. Since Loras did not bring a great deal of pressure on the quarterback last season, it is fair to expect EC to test the Duhawks deep early on in this matchup.
WHEN THE DUHAWKS HAVE THE BALL:
Loras Offense: Spread - Base Personnel: 1 RB, 1 FB, 3 WR
EC Defense: 3-3-5, 4-2-5
Loras players to watch: RS Junior QB Bob Kelly 7, Senior RB Isaac Cloward 23, Junior RB Cody Mighell 29, Junior WR Brad Boelkow 8
EC players to watch: Senior DT John Rubino 92, Junior LB Romain Richards 52, Senior CB Tristan Bolas 31, Senior LB Joe Nixon 40
Run D vs Loras
Offensively, Loras likes to go fast. With a no huddle, up-tempo style, the Duhawks play wide open in their version of the spread. The running game is focused around their ability to stretch the defense across the width of the field, forcing defenders to play in space. Pursuit and sound fundamental tackling will be vital in order for the Bluejays to slow down the Duhawks running game.
Isaac Cloward and Cody Mighell seem likely to take the majority of carries for Loras. Both runners are mid-sized backs who bring a balanced skill set to the Duhawk offense.
Pass D vs Loras
Through the air, the Duhawks will force the Bluejays to tackle in space. With an emphasis on screen passes, drag routes and crossing patterns, EC defenders will need to be consistent in their pursuit of the ball in order to avoid the big play.
6’3” receiver Brad Boelkow is a playmaker on the outside. He uses his size well, evidenced by the seven touchdowns he caught last season (including a red zone touchdown reception he made in tight coverage against EC).
The Duhawks will also test the Bluejays physically and they will not hesitate to get the ball to senior fullback David Adams in the flat. Tipping the scales at 245 pounds, Adams has the ability to break tackles against smaller defenders.
Non-conference games are a great environment for young players to get their feet wet at the collegiate level. The Bluejays will lean on a number of first-year starters this fall and a strong showing against the Duhawks will go a long way towards building confidence as the team prepares for their conference schedule.
The Leader’s prediction: EC 28, Loras 24