DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University football team makes it semiannual trip to the West Coast to face San Diego as it tries to close out its 2013 season with its fourth straight win. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST and will be aired in Des Moines on 1350-AM KRNT.
The Bulldogs travel to San Diego playing their best football of the year after cruising to three straight wins in a homestand against Valparaiso, Morehead State and Dayton to improve to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the Pioneer Football League. However, they’ll need to continue that strong play to best a San Diego squad that is in first place in the league standings at 7-3 overall and 6-1 in the PFL.
“We’re a team that if we’re really playing hard and focused, we have a chance to compete,” Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. “ If we’re not in that frame of mind, we’re nowhere near good enough to just show up and win.”
Drake has been in that frame of mind during the recent homestand with the offense, under the guidance of quarterback Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wisc.), has put up 511 and 518 yards in the last two games, respectively.
“Andy has gotten better every week,” Creighton added. “We ask our quarterbacks to manage the game and get the offense into the right formations and he’s done a good job with that. His maturation has been evident as has our offensive line’s. They’re a younger group that has gotten better throughout the year.”
That line also blocked for Conley Wilkins’ (Overland Park, Kan.) 107-yard game against Dayton, the first 100-yard rushing game by a true freshman in Drake history.
While the offense has put up incredible numbers, the defense has been equally, if not more, spectacular by holding its last three opponents to 11.3 points per game and 223 yards of offense per game while forcing 11 turnovers. During that span, opponents have only rushed for 42.7 yards per game as the Drake defense ranks ninth nationally in rushing defense by allowing just 103.9 yards per game on the ground. But that defense will have its mettle tested against a San Diego offense that averages more than 40 points and 500 yards of offense per game.
“It’s going to be an incredibly tough task,” Creighton said. “San Diego is always really good in every phase of the game. They’re dynamite and so multi-dimensional. I think our defense has gotten better and when our offense started being more productive it helped the offense and we’ve had a lot of different people step up.”
Last season, Drake defeated San Diego, 38-10, in Des Moines to stay in the PFL title hunt thanks to the defense forcing six turnovers to keep San Diego’s potent offense at bay to improve to 11-9 all-time against the Toreros.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball and find a way to get the other team to give it up,” Creighton said. “Last year we managed to do that against San Diego and that’s the only reason why we won. If the turnover ratio had been even, the game was probably even. If you get turnovers, you give yourself an advantage.”
Drake has already secured its 10th straight winning season and with a win, could lay claim to the 33rd season with seven or more win in school history. A win would also be Chris Creighton’s 45th in six seasons at Drake and the 145th in his career.