The Defiance College football team reached the halfway point of the season last week and the Yellow Jackets will play its first on-campus game this season Saturday when DC hosts Hanover, another powerhouse in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“We’re looking forward to (it),” Defiance coach Manny Matsakis said of playing at home. “It’s an opportunity to get better this week. We had a rough one last week.”
The Yellow Jackets fell to 0-5 overall and 0-2 in the HCAC with a 59-6 loss in Cincinnati at Mt. St. Joseph’s.
Not only is the game the first on campus, but it also serves as the Homecoming game.
“I think the Homecoming part is fantastic,” said Matsakis. “The 1969 undefeated team is going into the Hall of Fame and it’ll be exciting to have them back. I’ll enjoy the festivities of seeing those guys.”
Last week, the Defiance offense moved the ball, but couldn’t find the end zone and fell behind 28-6 at the half.
“The first half was better,” admitted Matsakis. “Offensively, we ran the ball well. We were running the triple option and it seemed to cause some problems for Mt. St. Joe’s. That’s something we improved upon. We struggled to finish (drives). At the half, statistically, it was a really close half. It probably should have been 28-21.”
The passing game struggled due in part to an injury to Amin Shaheed.
“We had some new guys go in,” said Matsakis. “Amin Shaheed got hurt in the first series. A couple of new guys reshuffled the deck and a couple of guys ran the wrong route adjustments when we were inside the five-yardline. If we do what we’re supposed to do, its an easy touchdown.”
Shaheed is expected to be back in the lineup this week.
“What he’s capable of doing, from a speed standpoint, he’s the one guy we have that can stretch the field,” Matsakis said of Shaheed. “He’s back. He’s been walking on campus this week. He’s been in practice and he’ll be ready to go.”
The Yellow Jackets did execute the triple option in the loss. Defiance ran for 123 yards against Mt. St. Joe’s.
“Physically, our ability to run the option gave us the physical nature to at least offensively stand up to them, which we didn’t do a year ago,” stated Matsakis. “The discipline of the option will help our team.”
The second half was a different story. Mt. St. Joe’s came out and scored 21 points in the third quarter in what turned into a 59-6 contest.
“The second half was nowhere near as good as the first half,” stated Matsakis on last week.
Defiance allowed 447 yards passing last week in the loss to MSJ.
“I saw precision,” Matsakis said of the MSJ passing game. “We tried to lock up and play man on them. They were just throwing the ball over the top of us, completing passes.”
Now, the Yellow Jackets turn their attention on a Hanover team that hung 70 points on the board in a blanking of Anderson. Quarterback Noah Wezensky was 17 of 23 passing for 359 yards with five touchdowns in the win.
“It’s a game where we have to show up all four quarters, or it could be a runaway,” said Matsakis. “It’s not that Anderson gave the game away, Hanover just took it.”
The Panthers had 581 yards of offense in the win against Anderson, averaging 9.5 yards per play.
“I think there was a bit of an intimidation factor Hanover had in the game,” said Matsakis, reviewing film from Hanover and Anderson. “That’s something we have to look at overcoming because Hanover won the league last year. Right now, they’re in a position to do it again.”
Matsakis knows his defense, especially a decimated front line, is up for a challenge against a Hanover team that averages nearly 500 yards of offense a game.
“The big step is (to) run what we’re coaching and avoid the freelancing-type things,” said Matsakis of the DC defense. “We need to continue to make strides from a conditioning standpoint.”
Now at the halfway mark, Matsakis sees an area of improvement for the Yellow Jackets.
“There just isn’t enough depth,” said the coach. “We went into training camp thinking we had so many defensive linemen. In retrospect it was not, but maybe just more than we’ve had in the past.”
Kickoff at Justin F. Coressel Stadium on the Defiance campus Saturday is set for 1:30 p.m.