Thursday, April 17, 2014

Big game for OU, Friends

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 11/8/2013

How big is today’s Ottawa University-Friends University football game in Wichita? It was selected the NAIA game of the week by the fans.

It matches two ranked teams with playoff implications. Both teams are 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

How big is today’s Ottawa University-Friends University football game in Wichita? It was selected the NAIA game of the week by the fans.

It matches two ranked teams with playoff implications. Both teams are 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Both teams hold their playoff destiny in their own hands. The loser of today’s 1:30 p.m. game may need some help and a prayer to get in the playoffs.

“We don’t want to take the voting into the part of the decision-making process,” ninth-ranked Ottawa coach Kent Kessinger said. “We want to earn our position.”

Junior defensive back DeVontae Corbitt said the players on each side know what is at stake.

“We are looking forward to the competition,” he said of playing the No. 16 Falcons. “We know what has to be done. We know what this game means. Until we get knocked off, we are still the champions.

“We have to be focused.”

It matches two programs used to winning. Ottawa has won three of the past four KCAC crowns.

“Monty Lewis and his coaching staff do a good job of putting their teams together year in and year out,” Kessinger said. “They can draw tremendous athletes. They are one of the most talented teams every year that we face. They are physical ... big. Their defense has a lot more speed than it has had in the past.”

It matches programs that hang their hats on different things. Friends is a rugged football team that likes to pound the ball on the ground and be physical on defense.

Ottawa is multi-dimensional offensively and defensively beats teams by playing smart.

“It is all about preparation,” Corbitt said. “Knowing what is going to be run.”

Friends ranks seventh in rushing with more than 2,100 yards this season.

“You need to take away their strong suit which is running the football,” Kessinger said. “We have to do well against the run.”

Ottawa has 14 interceptions against Friends the past two seasons.

“The reason we have gotten the interceptions the last couple of years is the fact we have forced them to throw the football,” Kessinger said.

Ottawa ranks fifth in points per game (45.1), while the Friends defense ranks eighth in scoring defense (17.1) and second in yards (271.6).

“They try to put pressure on the quarterback not only with the front four but with blitzing,” Kessinger said. “It will be a tall task for us. The secondary has been playing a lot more man-to-man.”

Ottawa’s offense has a balance look to it.

“Offensively, we are going to have to match the speed and physicality of their front seven,” Kessinger said. “If we can do that and protect, that is where the man-to-man has issues.”

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