By ANDY WOLF
The regular season didn’t end anywhere near the way the University of Findlay football team wanted it to.
Especially from a defensive perspective.
The Oilers allowed their highest point total of the season in a 49-24 loss to Ohio Dominican in the virtual Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship game.
“Our good wasn’t good enough Saturday,” junior defensive back Chewy Chukwuneke said.
“That game didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” senior defensive tackle Ashton Elmore said. “We’re better than that. It just kind of slipped away from us.”
Findlay got an unexpected sense of new life when its name appeared in the postseason bracket on selection Sunday.
Up next is another top 10 offense in the nation in Shepherd — the No. 2 ranked team in the country.
The opportunity of redemption for a veteran defense is on the line.
Findlay isn’t taking the moment lightly either.
“Obviously, a lot of teams are wishing they are in our spot right now,” Chukwuneke said. “The way to not take it for granted is to just go all out all throughout the week and when the game comes, do the same thing.”
More often than not, the Oilers have been a stout defense.
Minus two games. Their two losses.
In Week 2, Ferris State racked up 653 yards in a 48-27 victory.
Ohio Dominican didn’t reach that mark, but still totaled 516 yards. The Oilers played most of the game without starting cornerback Tyler Lee, who left early with an injury.
“It’s a learning experience,” Chukwuneke said. “(Lee’s injury) had a little bit of an impact, but at the end of the day they were better than us.”
Undoubtedly, a rebound performance could fuel a postseason victory.
The Oilers were able to shake off a poor performance against Ferris State by defeating William Jewell 55-17 on the road before destroying Tuskegee 61-0 at home the following week.
Chukwuneke envisions a repeat scenario.
“Come out hungry and whatever and just attack for four quarters like we did against Tuskegee coming after our last loss,” Chukwuneke said.
While two bad games don’t tell the whole tale of the UF defense, they did put a dent in the season averages.
Of the 188 points the Oilers have allowed (17.1 per game), 95 came in their two losses.
The Oilers’ three worst rushing defense games of the season — against Ohio Dominican (177), Tiffin (183) and Ferris State (413) — account for one yard over half (773) of their entire season’s yield (1,545) on the ground.
“We’ve got to start with stopping the run, which we’re pretty good at,” Elmore said. “If we’re doing our thing, it makes it easy for everybody else.”
For UF, shutting down the run would mean limiting the damage of Shepherd’s Jabre Lolley.
Lolley is a 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser with 1,101 yards, 15 touchdowns and six 100-yard games. He’s only had to surpass the 20-carry mark twice.
Should the Oilers slow the run, the Rams would be able to air it out with senior quarterback Connor Jessop, a Virginia Tech transfer.
With scores coming from 38 passes, six rushes and one reception, Jessop is responsible for 27 of Shepherd’s 48.5 points per game. No other Division II player accounts for more points.
“It’s better on film than it is on paper, I’ll tell you that much,” Keys said.
Keys isn’t hoping for a shootout, but rather to see his team be able to slow down Shepherd enough.
Ultimately, proving the Oilers can hang defensively is just part of the puzzle.
“Basically, we want to prove that we didn’t just get in because we had a weaker conference,” Elmore said. “We want to show them that we are a good team.”
Football: Defense seeks redemption against Shepherd
By ANDY WOLF