By ANDY WOLF
Justice Jenkins is No. 1 in more ways than one.
His jersey reads accordingly, he leads the University of Findlay football team with 19 tackles and he tops the Great Midwest Athletic Conference with 21/2 sacks.
But don’t read too much into his choice in jersey number.
“No matter what jersey I have on my back I’m going to give all I have on the field, play for my teammates,” the junior linebacker said. “I have chosen numbers before for other significance but No. 1 had no significance to me. Other people might think so but I play for my team no matter what number is on my back.”
Jenkins was No. 29 as a freshman and No. 28 as a sophomore.
He played sparingly in those years, totaling 25 tackles.
Last week Jenkins turned in a career-high 11 stops with 11/2 sacks and a pass broken up in a 48-27 loss to No. 2 Ferris State.
He credits his sustained productivity to learning from the older guys ahead of him.
“Now I can play the game at a high speed, high level,” Jenkins said. “I feel comfortable in the game and with the teammates I have. They make me feel as comfortable as well. I really like my team and we’re going to carry on and do great this year.”
After a strong Week 1 showing against Tiffin, the defense surrendered 653 total yards to Ferris State.
Jenkins and his teammates are choosing to focus on the positives heading into Saturday’s 1 p.m. nonconference clash with William Jewell College (0-2) in Liberty, Missouri.
“We’ve got a little bit of a trek ahead of us,” UF coach Rob Keys said of a near 11-hour bus ride. “It’s very similar to a UP trip. It’s like traveling to just past Northern (Michigan) and right before (Michigan) Tech. We’ve got a long haul.”
SEASON TO DATE: Like Findlay (1-1), William Jewell also fell to a top-five opponent in No. 3 Texas A&M-Commerce (59-6).
“Against A&M-Commerce, they ran into a buzzsaw, They’re loaded,” Keys said. “I watched them on film and you can see at Commerce, that was a difficult task and they got behind rather early. And when you’re behind early to a team like that it’s so hard to get out of a hole. Sort of like us against Ferris State (31-13 halftime).
“(William Jewell) is a good football team. … They didn’t win a ton (1-9 last year) but they played a lot of people tough.”
The Cardinals lost their season opener 42-27 to South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
KEEPING FOCUS: Going from playing a national semifinalist last week to a 1-9 team, Keys is largely keeping his team focused on themselves and controlling what they can do.
“Ultimately, there’s been a large focus placed upon us and how good we can get,” Keys said. “I mentioned to the team today how high our standards are as a staff. “¦ Our job is to try and hit that standard all the time and that’s hard but great football teams do it more often than not and that’s what we strive to every day.”
POINTS ON THE BOARD: That’s the ultimate object of the game.
Right now, Keys isn’t satisfied with how his team has done so.
Their 55 points scored is the lowest through two games since 2011 (37) in Keys’ first season.
“We talked in the preseason that the expectation level from a scoring perspective, we’re looking to score 40 points plus a game,” Keys said. “We were 28 and 27 (points) in Week 1 and Week 2. You’re looking at two touchdowns away from where we should be. I know we have been good in spurts. We haven’t had that consistent where we’re putting together four and five consecutive scoring drives.”
Their goal of 40 could be well within reach as WJC has surrendered 101 points.
Key said the Cardinals do present the different challenge of an “odd-man front” as opposed to seeing a four-man front against Tiffin and Ferris State.
“They play with a bunch of fast guys in that back end at the linebacker level and the secondary,” Keys said. “They blitz at least one guy at least 80-90 percent of the time. They’re starting to bring five and six and seven in some of the blitz courses. They’re very complicated from a scheme perspective.”
OFFENSIVELY: Senior quarterback Brad Strauss is also William Jewell’s leading rusher at 123 yards.
Strauss, a member of Northwest Missouri State’s 2015 Division II national title team before transferring, has thrown for 530 yards (64.3 percent) with four touchdowns to three interceptions this season.
“You watch him, he’s definitely the guy that makes the offense go,” Keys said of Strauss.
Meanwhile, Jason Moore is the second-straight UF player to earn GMAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after running back Daouda Sylla did so in Week 1.
Moore hauled in nine passes for 125 yards while matching his career high of three scores.
College Football: Jenkins off to a strong start
By ANDY WOLF