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Football: Home opener for Oilers on Saturday

By ANDY WOLF
STAFF WRITER
After two very different road contests to start the season, the University of Findlay team can finally stay home.
The Oilers (1-1) opened with a 69-19 road win over Kentucky Wesleyan before falling 59-13 at No. 9 Ferris State last Saturday.
Findlay, which dropped out of the Division II top 25, hosts William Jewell (0-1) in nonleague play at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Donnell Stadium.
“We’re really excited,” junior center Neal Davis said. “We haven’t been home since last year before the playoffs. It’s really exciting to see the energy at Donnell. (I’m) really excited to see how the community supports us.”
Davis saw last week’s blowout loss as a learning experience.
“We went in there, thought we were really good and came out thinking ‘Hey, we’re not as good as we think we are,’” Davis said. “You see a good team like Ferris and say, ‘Hey, that’s what we want to be like.’”
Davis considers it a privilege to be a part of UF’s offensive line
The third-year starter at center is honored to do battle in the trenches with his “brothers.”
“It’s such a family,” Davis said. “I feel like I’ve got four other brothers I’d die for.”
Davis attributes a lot of the atmosphere to the leadership of offensive line coach Kory Allen.
The other parts are spent hanging out with the rest of his fellow linemen outside of football activities.
The Oilers have been able to thrive offensively behind the same starting five linemen for the past six games dating back to last season, two in last year’s playoffs.
“When you’re willing to die for someone out on the field, you don’t want to let them down,” Davis said. “You have that feeling out there, I’m not letting that guy down. That’s something extra.”
Davis feels he has a little something extra in his game, too — the mental edge.
While everyone at Division II, is big and fast, Davis tries to use his intelligence to outsmart opposing defensive linemen.
“Coming from high school I was always the smartest guy on the team and now I have to be the smartest guy on the college team, too,” he said. “Just that film study and learning the opponents’ schemes. How can I use what they’re doing and their tendencies to my advantage?”
Davis has always started as long as he’s played football.
A four-year starter on the offensive line at Ashville Teays Valley, Davis embraced the challenge of winning his way into the starting lineup by doing the necessary summer activities of getting faster, stronger and learning the playbook.
“It was one of those things, hey go win a job,” he said.
He debuted in the 2016 Week 1 lineup at center as a true freshman and has remained there, making 26 consecutive starts.
“There’s not enough time to talk about the characteristics and intangibles of Neal Davis,” UF head coach Rob Keys said. “Off the charts. Checks every box.”
Here are three more things to know about Saturday’s game:
WHO/WHAT IS WILLIAM JEWELL?: William Jewell, the person, was a Baptist physician who donated money and land to build a college in Liberty, Missouri. in 1949.
William Jewell College’s football team, which plays in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, hasn’t put together a winning season since transitioning to Division II in 2011.
The Oilers won a 55-17 road matchup in the first meeting between the two schools last year.
So far in 2018, William Jewell suffered 27-17 loss to Texas A&M-Commerce — the Division II defending national champions. Its season opener against Division I Drake was canceled due to inclement weather.
“We have to show up and you better be on your best game because anybody can beat you,” Keys said. “Even in the loss, it was impressive to take a national championship team to a 10-point game, they took it to the fourth quarter. They are improved.”
DEJA VU: William Jewell is far from the program that Ferris State is, but the Oilers have another dual-threat quarterback to deal with.
Ferris State’s Jayru Campbell burned UF for 338 total yards, 96 rushing, and five touchdowns in three quarters.
WJU sophomore Will Schneider has a similar frame at 6-foot-3, 215-pounds to Campbell.
Schneider ran 20 times for 79 yards last week.
“You have a one-back offense, either one tight end or no tight end,” Keys said of WJU. “They do it with a quick passing game. They hit the runs in there, too. They do it with athleticism, try to get guys in space.”
Schneider found Bulla Graft seven times for 69 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals were outgained 354-247 by the Lions.
Last year, the Oilers held the ball for 40 minutes and built a 587-320 yardage edge over the Cardinals.
PLAYMAKERS: William Jewell forced three turnovers in last week’s loss.
Senior defensive back Justice Taylor and junior linebacker Antonio Wabanimkee each had interceptions while junior Donte’ Colum recovered his forced fumble.
The Oilers are up to two turnovers so far, one in each game, and are minus-3 in turnover margin.
Tyler Lee’s interception on a halfback pass accounted for UF’s lone takeaway last week.
Only three of the Oilers’ 14 tackles for loss came against Ferris State.
Wolf, 419-427-8496
andywolf@thecourier.com