Buena University football coach Steve Osterberger isn't taking Dubuque University lightly, even though he has lots of reasons to.
The BV gridders hope to end their season with a winning record by beating Dubuque Saturday at J.Leslie Rollins Stadium in Storm Lake. To avoid falling to 5-5 on the season, the Beavers will have to be on top of their game despite the fact that Dubuque enters the game winless at 0-9.
"In this conference any team can beat any other on Saturday," Osterberger said.
And, he added, even though the Beavers aren't in the running for a conference championship, a win would mean a 6-4 record and a three-game win streak to end the season.
"That would mean a lot for our program going into the offseason," Osterberger said. "It would give us confidence and momentum going into next season."
The Beavers already have some momentum going into Saturday's game with Dubuque, having beaten Upper Iowa University and tough Coe College on the road in consecutive weeks. Last week's 31-21 win over Coe might have been one of BV's best overall performances of the season.
"They're an awfully sound football team," said Dubuque coach Vincent Brautigan of BV. "They've got a real threat at quarterback in Wiebers, who can hurt with his arm or the run.
"They've rushed the ball better than they did last year and I'm really impressed with their defense. They really run to the ball well."
Osterberger knows that his team will be favored heavily over Dubuque - as most Iowa Conference teams have been this season - but he is also aware of some individual talent on that team.
"They've got some good athletes capable of making big plays," the coach said. "And they've played some teams close this season. You can't afford to take a week off in this conference."
Last week might have been a positive for Dubuque, which was beaten 41-13 by probable conference winner Wartburg College. That's about the average score Wartburg has been beating Iowa Conference teams by.
According to Brautigan, his team forced four Wartburg turnovers in the first half, but had trouble capitalizing.
"And we hurt ourselves with our own turnovers," he said. "We had a few, including two in their red zone that they turned into 14 points."
Meanwhile, last Saturday, the Beavers had one of their best defensive performances of the season. In the win over Cornell, BV limited it to 98 yards rushing, including just 67 yards on 23 carries for leading conference rusher Matt Wycoff. Cornell came into the contest as the second-leading rushing team in the Iowa Conference.
Offensively, the Beavers had good balance, rushing for 151 while Wiebers passed for 245.
"Their win over Cornell was impressive," Brautigan said.
The Dubuque coach, meanwhile, is in just his second year and is attempting to build a winning program. But the Spartans have taken their lumps this season and are still extremely young. And like BV, they've been hit hard by injuries.
"We're starting four sophomores in our offensive line," Brautigan said.
That has hurt the Spartan running game, but injuries have hurt it at quarterback. A senior starter and a junior backup have already suffered season-ending injuries, leaving freshman Jemar Jackson as the starter.
"He's going to be a good quarterback in the future, and he's capable of making plays," said Brautigan. "But he's still learning the position at the college level. You can use a veteran quarterback and he'll be effective if he has veterans around him. The problem is, we're young on offense and most of those guys are just learning, too. That creates a situation where we've made some mental and physical errors."
Brautigan said if his team has a strongpoint, it's been defense, which is generally a year older that the young offense.
"We've improved a lot on defense and played pretty well the whole year," added Brautigan.
And Osterberger was right when he said Dubuque has lost a few close games. It lost to highly-regarded Luther College just 19-14 and to Upper Iowa University 55-48 in overtime. The Spartans lost to Loras College just 20-7 in the second week of the season.
"They have some kids who can run the ball well and Jackson is a talented athlete," said Osterberger. "They're a pretty good football team that has been in a lot of games this season but fell short.
"We have to play the way we did last week on defense and eliminate some of the turnovers and mistakes we've made."
*Individually, BV linebacker Michael Irvin leads the nation in solo tackles with 76 on the season. He has 48 assisted tackles for a total of 124 tackles.
*Wiebers is fifth in the conference in passing, having completed 126 of 247 passes for 1,852 yards per game, an average of 211 yards per game.
*BV kicker Ryan Hutton leads the league in field goals with 10 field goals in 16 attempts for an average of 1.11 per game.