The Alma College football team closes out the non-conference portion of its schedule this weekend, traveling to Aurora, Ill., to face Aurora University. The Scots are in the midst of a three-game road swing, while the Spartans open a three-game homestand with this week's contest. Alma is 1-0 against teams from the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference this season, defeating Benedictine University as part of the MIAA-NACC Challenge. Aurora fell at Olivet College during the Challenge weekend.
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Aurora stands atop the NACC standings as one of three teams that have not lost a league game this season. The Spartans enter this weekend after back-to-back conference wins, defeating Wisconsin Lutheran College and Concordia University Chicago. On offense, junior Geron Rogers is the projected starter at quarterback and has completed 52 percent of his passes for 460 yards and four TDs. Freshman Emilio Starks is the team's top receiver, catching 21 passes for 281 yards, while junior Sean Mullen has hauled in 13 passes for 161 yards and a score. Sophomore Connor Olson is Aurora's top back, rushing for 509 yards and six touchdowns to average over 100 yards on the ground per game. Defensively, senior linebacker Kam Dawtyne has posted a team-high 40 tackles, while sophomore defensive back Keion Adams has picked off a team-best four passes. Rick Ponx, head coach of the Spartans since 2013, is in his fifth season on the sidelines, guided Aurora to the NACC championship in 2015.
Today's game is the fifth meeting between the Scots and Spartans in a series that began in 2004. Alma holds a 3-1 advantage in the series, and posted a 38-14 victory over Aurora last season at Bahlke Field. The Scots are 1-1 all-time at Vago Field and are making their first trip to Aurora's campus since the 2012 campaign.
LAST GAME – at Hope 36, Alma 14
On a rainy and windy night at Ray & Sue Smith Stadium, Alma suffered a 36-14 loss to Hope College in a battle between early leaders in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Hope forced the Scots into four turnovers and racked up 332 yards on the ground. Six of the seven scoring drives for the Dutch began in Alma territory as Hope opened the game with a 17-0 lead and limited Alma's passing game to just 62 yards. Dylan Zaborowski ran for 115 yards and scored the only rushing touchdown for the Scots. He also threw a touchdown pass, hitting Chase Hinkle for his 50th career TD toss. Defensively, Alma forced Hope into four turnovers, while Colton Tyson paced the Scots with 10 tackles.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Dylan Zaborowski has a chance to move up the career rushing attempts chart this week. Entering today's game, Zaborowski is fifth with 462 rushes, one shy of fourth place and 15 away from the third-place spot. He is averaging 18.6 rushing attempts per game this year.
Zaborowski is also 90 yards away from fifth place on Alma's career rushing chart. He is currently sixth with 1,766 career rushing yards.
Alma is 5-0 against NACC teams since 2015.
The Scots have won their crossover game against NACC competition in each of the last two seasons, defeating Concordia Chicago in 2015 and winning against Aurora last year.
LEADING THE GROUND GAME
Caleb Reinhart leads the MIAA with 11 rushing touchdowns – sixth-best in NCAA Division III – and is the league's third-leading rusher with an average of 125.0 yards per game. Reinhart ranks 26th among NCAA III rushers and is 29th nationally with a 6.38 yards per carry average. Reinhart is coming off of a season-low 54 yards at Hope.
Caleb Reinhart ranks sixth among NCAA Division III players with 72 total points scored and is also fifth nationally with an 14.4 points per game average. In addition, he is sixth in NCAA III with 12 total touchdowns. After five games, Reinhart is tied for the 11th-best single-season scoring total in Alma College history. The record is 108 points, scored by Ray Dawood in 1997.
DUAL-THREAT FOR THE AGES
Dylan Zaborowski, in his fourth season as the starting signal-caller for the Scots, ranks third in Alma College history in passing yards (6,763) entering this week's game. He is 1,036 yards away from second place, held by Mackenzie McGrady (2007-09). Zaborowski is the top running quarterback in Alma College history with 462 carries for 1,766 yards.
Dylan Zaborowski has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last two games, and has five career 100-yard efforts.
Dustin Tripp currently leads the MIAA with 6.5 sacks, a mark that ranks sixth nationally. In addition, he ranks 11th in NCAA Division III with an average of 2.0 tackles for loss per game.
Colton Tyson is the MIAA's second-ranked tackler with 11.0 stops per game.
The Scots rank 16th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 260.2 yards per game.
Alma has taken the fewest penalties of any team in the MIAA, and ranks ninth in NCAA III for fewest infractions. The Scots were not whistled for any penalties last week at Hope College.
MURRAY NAMED SEMIFINALIST FOR CAMPBELL TROPHY
Senior wide receiver Lars Murray was named a semifinalist for the 2017 Campbell Trophy, awarded by the National Football Foundation to the top scholar-athlete across all divisions in college football. Murray has a 3.895 GPA and is a business administration major. The 12-14 finalists will be announced on November 1, with each finalist receiving an $18,000 post graduate scholarship.
NEXT UP ...
Alma will wrap up its three-game road trip on Saturday, Oct. 21, traveling to Albion College for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Scots will be looking for their first win at Sprankle-Sprandle Stadium since 2007.