Saturday, November 01, 2014

Ottawa catches No. 3 Missouri Valley early

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 9/13/2013

Third-ranked Missouri Valley plays its season opener 6 p.m. Saturday versus No. 18 Ottawa University at Peoples Bank Field in the Heart of America-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference series.

Both teams won their conference titles a year ago and will play each other in the inaugural game.

Third-ranked Missouri Valley plays its season opener 6 p.m. Saturday versus No. 18 Ottawa University at Peoples Bank Field in the Heart of America-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference series.

Both teams won their conference titles a year ago and will play each other in the inaugural game.

The two teams played each other in last year’s playoffs with Missouri Valley prevailing 56-21.

The Vikings return 14 starters from the national semifinal team.

Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said playing the Vikings last year will give the Braves familiarity.

“It does make a big difference,” Kessinger said. “We can go back to last year. The first game you really don’t know. They will still be good.”

Missouri Valley will not be hitting on all cylinders like it did in the playoffs. The Vikings kicked up their game a notch from the regular season.

“They will be a physical football team,” Kessinger said. “They will run power type plays. They will be ball control. I don’t expect anything less than that. We know we are getting a good opponent.”

Ottawa does have history on its side playing a highly-ranked team in its season opener after falling to Baker.

Two years ago, Ottawa lost to Baker 41-17, and faced a top-three team in Georgetown, Kent. Ottawa nearly won as Georgetown held off Ottawa, 21-19.

“This is an opportunity to test ourselves again,” Kessinger said. “Missouri Valley has more pressure on them, We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We are a lot more explosive [this year].”

Ottawa picked up nearly 400 yards of offense in last week’s 25-24 loss to the No. 15 Wildcats.

“We know what we need to improve on,” Kessinger said. “We want to get our base a lot better. We need to make sure we are sound.”

Ottawa had a chance to work on several aspects of the game: two-minute drill, special teams, passing and running.

Ottawa connected on 25 of 37 passes for 250 yards and no interceptions.

“No turnovers ... that is awesome,” Kessinger said.

Baker gained most of its yardage in the second half as Ottawa wore down.

Kessinger said playing at home is an advantage. Ottawa is .584 in home openers and ranks third all-time in NAIA with 534 wins. Missouri Valley is No. 1 with 584 wins.

“It is a nice home field advantage,” he said. “This is our first home game. We always have great community support.”

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