Miners, Bulldogs renew old rivalry in new conference.
The Truman State Bulldogs may be new to the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).
But the Bulldogs are certainly not new to Missouri S&T. Or first-year Miner football head coach Tyler Fenwick.
The Miner football program renews one of its oldest rivalries Saturday when it travels to Kirksville to take on the new kid on the GLVC block, Truman State. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
S&T brings a 3-4 overall record and 2-1 league mark into Saturday, as it attempts to stretch its current winning streak to three. Truman State, 5-2 overall, shares the GLVC lead with Indianapolis with a 3-0 league record.
The Miners and Bulldogs have played each other 75 times since 1909. The two schools were rivals in the Missouri (and later Mid-America) Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) from 1935-2004 before the Miners withdrew from the league to join the GLVC.
Truman followed suit last year and is a full-fledged GLVC member this school year.
Since 2004 the two squads have met just twice, with the Bulldogs winning 38-31 in Rolla in 2007 and S&T winning 39-38 in double-overtime at Kirksville in 2008. The 2008 Miner win ended a 22-game Truman winning streak in the series. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 49-22-4.
S&T left the MIAA, in large part, because it could not be competitive in the football race. That was one of the reasons Truman left as well.
Now the two are major players in the less-demanding GLVC football race.
"Truman is a good addition to the league – for both them and us," said Fenwick, who coached against Truman the previous six seasons while he was offensive coordinator at Missouri Western of the MIAA. "It gives them a chance to compete week in and week out and it gives us another good, quality conference opponent.
"Truman State was always a tough team to play; physically tough. When I was at Western they always gave us a good game. In '07 the beat us and knocked us out of the playoffs. It's a good opportunity for us to bring back an old rivalry. They are a good academic school like we are; there are a lot of things that go hand-in-hand with (the two schools)."
S&T is coming off a come-from-behind 14-13 homecoming victory over Saint Joseph's, in which the Miners trailed 13-0 at halftime and intercepted four passes in the final 6:37 to secure the victory. Truman held off McKendree 28-21 at home last week.
Bulldog senior quarterback Conrad Schottel has hit on 118-of-191 passes for 1,284 yards and 10 TDs this season. He has six receivers with at least 10 receptions, led by senior wideout Dallas Grier with 32 catches for 294 yards and three TDs.
Truman's Garrett White, a junior, ranks third in the GLVC rushing charts with 533 yards and five touchdowns. Last week Aaron Hartfield rushed for 101 yards.
Whereas turnovers have been a constant problem for the Miners, Truman has committed just eight over the first seven weeks of the season.
Defensively Truman has 17 QB sacks, led by junior end Nic Abbate with four. Freshman free safety Austin Zoda has a team-high 52 tackles.
"They do a lot of things offensively," Fenwick said. "They spread it out and give you a lot of formations. Their quarterback is pretty efficient and they have a pretty solid running game. And they're consistent; they don't make a lot of mistakes.
"Defensively they're blue collar; they play hard. It's a tough, physical defense."
Because of additional injuries S&T will be starting freshmen at quarterback and running back.
Freshman Peter Simpson replaces Reed Brown at QB. Brown suffered a high ankle sprain in the second period last week and will miss at least one game. After replacing Brown last week Simpson completed 12-of-19 passes for 177 yards and no interceptions.
The starter at running back figures to be freshman DeSoto Dickson. Regular running back starter, sophomore Zenel Hudson (team-leading 409 rushing yards), has been out with an ankle spain, although Fenwick says he should play Saturday. And last week Hudson's replacement, senior Anthony Moore, went down with a concussion.
Senior linebacker Chris Horn, with 12 tackles, was named GLVC Defensive Player of the Week for S&T last week. Senior linebacker Chris Emesih leads the Miner defensive unit in tackles with 55 while senior safety Mark Hopkins has 41 and junior linebacker Zach Melber 39 with three sacks. Junior lineman Dan Mauszycki leads S&T in sacks with 6. S&T has 20 sacks on the season.
Despite committing 29 turnovers in the first seven games, a win Saturday puts the Miners at .500 with three games remaining against opponents owning a combined 5-15 record.
"We're not looking at that," Fenwick said. "For us we look at it as the next game on the schedule. No matter who it is we've got to find a way to win and do what we haven't been doing – consistency in the area of turnovers."