Buena Vista will kick off the 2008 season with an unfamiliar foe. The meeting between the Beavers and the Pioneers in Storm Lake Saturday will be the first ever between the two schools.
The Pioneers were 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, while the Beavers return 25 letter winners from a team that went 5-5 in the IIAC.
The Pioneers are a team known for airing the ball out as they have been in the top-15 nationally in passing yards in five of the past ten seasons. This season's Pioneer squad looks to have a little more balance offensively than past seasons as they bring back all-conference running back Mike Genslinger.
Genslinger has totaled over 2000 yards on the ground and 21 TDs in his past two seasons at UW-Platteville.
"Offensively, they put a lot of pressure on you," said BVU head coach Jay Anderson. "They spread you sideline to sideline and run a lot of zone reads and a lot of screens. The biggest thing we're stressing is play assignment football. Their quarterback is a very good athlete. He throws it pretty well and can beat you with his feet. Their running back is pretty shifty and hits the holes pretty quick.
This bodes well for a Beaver defense that has playmakers and experience in the secondary in Michael Sly and Rahn Franklin. The duo combined for 103 tackles, four interceptions, and two fumble recoveries a season ago.
BVU looks to counter with a solid ground game of their own that returns the top two rushers from last season in Cory Donscheski and Alex Moss. The pair totaled 1225 rushing yards and eight TDs last fall to go along with 450 receiving yards.
The biggest question mark along the BVU sideline this fall has been who would fill the shoes of the departed Chris Hawkins at quarterback. Senior Matt Pearey has received the starting nod for this week after being the only other Beaver to attempt a pass last fall.
"He's done a lot of things well," said Anderson. "He has picked up from last year and he taking what we're doing in our meetings and applying it on the field. That's all you can ask. Our success isn't entirely on his shoulders. He just has to manage the game effectively."
Coach Anderson is confident in his offense and their ability to produce this year, but he is looking for more consistency as the defense was on the field too much for his liking last fall.
"You always expect to do well in the first game," said Anderson. "We just want to be consistent. The more snaps we can take and keep their offense on the sidelines, the better. We have got to limit our three-and-outs on offensive and get some stops to get off the field defensively."
UW-Platteville has won their past eight straight season openers. Buena Vista is 4-4 in season openers since 2000, but they did knock off nationally ranked Bethel in the first game of last season. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 PM at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium.