Tyler Fenwick knew the first part of the 2013 schedule for the Missouri S&T football team was going to be extremely rugged.
And still winless after two games – and with a couple more potential heavyweights looming the next two weeks – Saturday afternoon's contest is huge for the Miners.
S&T will host Wisconsin-LaCrosse on Saturday in the Miner Hall of Fame Game. Kickoff at Allgood-Bailey Stadium is set for 1 p.m.
Both teams are looking for that first win of the fall, as each is 0-2.
S&T's two losses have come against NCAA Division II nationally-ranked foes No. 20 Chadron State 40-34 in double-overtime and, last week, No. 6 Missouri Western 63-3.
The Wisconsin-LaCrosse Eagles, a NCAA Division III program, also lost to a No. 6 nationally-ranked foe last week, falling to North Central – No. 6 in this week's Division III national poll – 41-24.
"It's always exciting to be back home," said Fenwick, S&T head coach whose team was roughed up by Missouri Western in St. Joseph last week.
"We had a great crowd in our first home game. Hopefully it will stay like that and they'll remember that exciting opener."
It may be a step down in classification but Fenwick says the Eagles will be a stout opponent. Last week LaCrosse took the early lead over North Central before allowing 21 of the game's next 24 points.
The two teams met two previous times, splitting those two games. LaCrosse routed S&T 48-0 in 2009 in Wisconsin and the Miners won at Rolla 31-24 in 2010.
"LaCrosse is a good team," Fenwick said. "They have typical Wisconsin kids, who play extremely hard. They're strong kids and they do a nice job.
"They're pretty balanced. They're a more traditional pro-style, under-center team that is going to want to run the ball. I think their strength is running the ball."
However, so far LaCrosse has done most of its offensive damage through the air, with nearly three-fourths of its offensive yardage coming by the pass.
Eagle senior quarterback Andy Sires has completed 46-of-80 passes for 543 yards and five TDs. His top target has been junior wideout Chris Stackhouse, who has eight catches for 62 yards.
Junior tailback Jared Stan leads the ground game with 118 rushing yards.
Defensively the Eagles gave up a whopping 674 yards of total offense to North Central last week - 344 of it on the ground and 330 through the air.
"Their corners are tall," Fenwick said. "Cornerbacks who are 6-1 create problems. They are physical up front. It's been kind of a tale of two defenses. In their first game they didn't blitz a whole lot and in their last game they did, so we really don't know what to expect."
Page 2 of 2 - The Miners hope to use a balanced attack. Sophomore quarterback Reed Brown has hit on 42-of-66 passes for 495 yards, four interceptions and two TDs. Junior wideout Melvin Stovall has caught 11 passes for 164 yards and junior wideout Nick Taylor has 10 receptions for 122 yards.
Sophomore running back Zenel Hudson paces the Miner running game with 119 yards on 49 attempts and two TDs.
For the Miner defense senior linebacker Chris Emesih has 16 total tackles (10 solos) while senior defensive back Sean Martin has 15 (14 solos).
Fenwick says the Miners have recovered from last week's loss.
"They're ready to go," he said. "They're 0-2 and fighting for a win. Practices have been really good this week. We've put last week's game to bed; I've been pleased this week where we're at."