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Spartans not content after loss to Illinois Wesleyan

Bill Kindt. columnist

Bill Kindt., columnist

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Updated: April 19, 2011 4:48AM

It is pretty much a given coaches in just about every sport choose the words they use in public with a great amount of caution.

They’d rather walk sans shoes over a bed of rusty nails than to say anything that would even remotely be taken as bulletin board material.

So even though his Aurora University football team played (NCAA Division III) nationally-ranked Illinois Wesleyan to a standstill on Sept. 18, Rich Duncan wasn’t about to anoint the Spartans as the top dog in the Northern Athletics Conference.

Why not? Remember, AU only lost to Wesleyan by a 21-14 count, outgained the Titans 320-252 and won the time of possession battle, 31 minutes to 28, by running 72 plays to Wesleyan’s 59.

Nobody would have blamed Duncan if he ran laps around Vago Field with his arms raised in triumph then raced off to order party favors.

He didn’t do either.

Again, why not?

The final score answers both. AU did lose the football game and that is the bottom line. Plus, there were enough mistakes to make coaches earn their salaries during an off week while they prepare for Lakeland in the NAC opener.

First, by no means last, was AU’s inability to cover kickoffs. IWU’s fine running back Bo Lanter averaged just under 35 yards on three returns, including one to the AU 38 to set up a touchdown.

Strangely, perhaps, kick coverage was a strength in AU’s first two games so that probably isn’t a huge worry at this point.

Neither is the interception that quarterback Jimmy Bevell threw on a play that was just plain ugly. Bevell appeared to be throwing the ball away, but actually threw it right into the arms of Wesleyan’s P.J. Cummings at the AU 17 and he brought the ball back — a short trip at that — to the AU 13.

It took the Titans just two plays to score with Lanter doing the damage on a 5-yard run.

Bevell shoulders the blame but it wasn’t totally his fault. He was throwing to a spot along the sidelines and the receiver never reached the spot. AU coaches thought the receiver was held at the line but the officials didn’t.

Guess who won that one?

“It was a case of ‘he said, she said,’ but the bottom line is he didn’t get there (to the spot),” Duncan said following the game.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Bevell, in another bottom line, needed to look before he threw. If he had, he’d have seen the only people in the direction he wanted to go wore white jerseys with green trim and not Spartan blue with white trim.

While AU didn’t play a perfect game, there was a whole lot more to like about this team. Chief among them was the intensity the Spartans showed on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the line opened up some running room at times, although that is still a work in progress without injured junior Joe Dorn in the lineup. Bevell shook off the interception to throw for 256 yards and the Spartans came at the Titans with a solid group of receivers.

Defensively, the Spartans lowered the boom on Wesleyan running backs and leveled quarterback Brien Rooney on two bone-jarring hits. They also held Lanter, who entered the game averaging nearly 10 yards a carry, to 54 yards on 12 rushes.

None of this means the Spartans are going to win the NAC in a walk. Shoot, the Spartans could still stumble and crash on re-entry. Certainly Lakeland, the defending conference champions, isn’t going to be scared nor will Concordia-Chicago, Concordia-Wisconsin or rival Benedictine.

Those games, like every game, must be won on the field, not on bulletin boards.

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