Buena Vista University football coach Steve Osterberger says team's defenses are ahead of their respective offenses early in the year.
That's been the case, for the most part, for the Beavers this season, particularly concerning the running game.
Last week, the Beavers' net rushing and passing totals were both under 100 yards. Special teams and defense were responsible for all its points in a 14-0 win over Loras College in the Iowa Conference opener for both teams.
The BVU coach, whose team is 1-1 overall, knows it is three weeks into the season and time for his offense to catch up to its defense. It'll get that chance Saturday at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium, when it meets 1-1 Cornell College.
"We want to be more consistent on offense," Osterberger said Thursday afternoon. "We have to protect our quarterback better than we did last week and we want to run the ball better."
Cornell enters today's 1 p.m. game with a 1-1 mark, having opened with a 21-14 win over Aurora University in week one but losing to Iowa Wesleyan 13-0 in its home opener two weeks ago. Saturday's game in Storm Lake will be the Rams' conference opener.
Although Cornell was picked by IIAC coaches to finish last in the conference in a pre-season poll, Osterberger says the Rams present some problems for the Beavers.
"They run the option, something that is always a concern, Osterberger said.
"When you defend the option, you have to play solid, assignment football. The option can be scary if you don't.
"Cornell also likes to throw the ball off their option and has a pretty good mix between the run and pass. At times, Cornell will spread you out, and we also have to be ready for that."
The Beavers' defense was outstanding last week in the win over Loras, forcing three turnovers, all interceptions by BVU's standout defensive back Chad Hinrichs. It limited Loras' offense to just 165 total yards.
BVU's pass defense has been outstanding thus far in 2005 and ranks third in pass defense efficiency in the nation.
On offense, the Beavers have had problems at time keeping defenders off quarterback Chris Hawkins. In two games, he's been sacked seven times.
Despite dealing with some defensive pressure, Hawkins showed he can be a problem for opposing defenses. In BVU's season-opening loss to Bethel University, Hawkins hit on 21 of 39 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns.
If the offensive line can give Hawkins time to throw, he has one of the top wide receivers in the conference in Laurens senior Jesse Schmidt. Sophomore Devin Stewart, also a Laurens-Marathon alum, caught two long touchdown passes against Bethel three weeks ago.
The Cornell offense has been led earlier in the season by Anthony Kobler, who's completed 19 of 36 passes thus far for 180 yards and a touchdown.
But according to Osterberger, Rams coach Ray Reasland will start junior Nate Newmeister at quarterback Saturday. He was a running back last season, but had only 56 carries.
Cornell returns seven offensive starters off last year's 2-8 team. They include senior running back Lucas Stanton, and senior receiver Dustin Waite, who caught 22 balls last year for 237 yards.
Cornell also returns three offensive linemen from last year, including its center and two tackles.
On defense, Cornell returns six starters. The strength of the Rams' defensive unit is its linebacking corps, which includes returnees Adam Eichorn and Chris Gustafson.
Eichorn was sixth in the IIAC in tackles in 2004 with 104, including 37 solo tackles. Gustafson was seventh last season in tackles with 99, including 42 solo tackles and eight tackles for a loss.
Osterberger added that Cornell's defense plays an aggressive style.
"They'll do a lot of blitzing, so protecting our quarterback will be a key for us," he said. "Turnovers are also a key; they'll try to force us into turning the ball over with their aggressive style."
Cornell lost almost all of its interior defensive line to graduation, but returns defensive end Zach Zousel. The Rams also return three starters in the defensive backfield.
Saturday's game may be decided by which team's offense can get back on track. Last week, the Rams struggled on that side of the ball, rushing for just 35 yards.
*Last week's BVU offensive output of 138 yards was the fewest yards gained in any game since Osterberger took over as coach.
*The Rams hold an 8-6 advantage in the series with BVU, but the Beavers have won four of the last seven meetings. Last fall, BVU broke a three-game losing streak to the Rams with a 26-14 win in Mount Vernon.
*After intercepting three passes last week against Loras and returning one 55 yards for a touchdown, Hinrichs gained a number of honors. He was named the Iowa Conference player of the week, the Don Hansen Football Gazette Division III co-player of the week and was also named to the D3football.com Team of the Week.