By ANDY WOLF
The pieces are finally in place.
And the full picture shows a University of Findlay defense that has often left opposing offenses puzzled.
Sophomore linebacker Isaac Miles is one of several defenders getting sharper each game.
“Now is the time for the defense to be really good,” Miles said. “Previously at Findlay it’s always been offense, offense. Now it’s becoming defense, offense. Now the coaches can do everything they want to do because Findlay is getting the guys.”
A large collective effort has the Oilers fifth in the country with a plus-11 turnover margin.
Their 18 turnovers, nine interceptions and nine fumble recoveries, have been created by 11 different players.
Miles recorded his first of the season, a fumble recovery, in last week’s 31-13 Great Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Hillsdale.
The Chargers had the makings to be the offensive threat the Oilers hadn’t seen in awhile but couldn’t rattle UF’s defense.
“Everybody knows that in the conference we’ve been beating teams by an exponential amount,” Miles said. “We knew we had to sharpen things up. Sometimes when teams blow teams out on a consistent basis they can take a more disciplined team for granted and then boom — they lose.”
Miles contributed eight tackles, one sack and the fumble recovery in that game which earned him GMAC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
The Offensive Player of the Week went to the signal caller of Findlay’s next opponent in Kentucky Wesleyan’s Mike McGee.
The Oilers (6-1, 3-0 GMAC) look to continue their roll when the Panthers (2-4, 1-2) come to Donnell Stadium under the Friday night lights with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
Miles has maintained his steady production since making 45 tackles, 51/2 for loss, as a freshman but with, admittedly, a little less reckless abandon and sloppiness.
Miles is fourth on UF with 30 tackles and a part of a blossoming linebacking trio with juniors Tyler Long (26 tackles) and Justice Jenkins (34).
The close grade gap has led to a tighter-knit bunch off the field as well. Last year, Miles was starting along two seniors in Anthony Linnear and Myles Alexander.
“The big thing as a freshman, you’re just trying to figure out everything, college life in general,” UF coach Rob Keys said. “Everything is so much faster. The thing with him, he got a lot of experience as a freshman and things have slowed down greatly.
“He’s much more comfortable in all the settings we ask him to be in. Right now he’s much more confident in what he’s being asked to do on the field.”
SEASON TO DATE: The Panthers are fresh off a 34-30 road win over Malone
Their only other win has come against 0-7 Livingstone College (33-13).
UF has posted five straight victories by an average margin of 46.2 points since losing to then No. 2 Ferris 48-27.
NOTABLE NUMBERS: Findlay is one of three teams in the top 10 nationally for scoring offense (fifth, 44.6 ppg) and scoring defense (13.9 ppg) with Assumption and Minnesota State being the other two.
The Oilers also earned different kind of points this week — ones that show up in the Division II coaches poll. They didn’t crack the top 25 but were in the others receiving votes category with 16 points.
Kentucky Wesleyan scores half as many points (21.0) per game as it allows (42.0).
SEIZING OPPORTUNITY: UF senior running back Daouda Sylla (134 ypg) has been the epitome of rock-solid consistency all season long.
He’s totaled five 100-yard games and is third nationally with 12 rushing scores.
Only Ferris State has kept him from achieving either feat in a game.
His counterpart in junior Michael Campbell has supplied 353 yards and nine touchdowns, making the most in the absence of senior running back Chauncey Bridges.
Campbell has not only been as steady as Sylla, but improving every game.
His longest carries in each of his first four games went for 13, 13, 25 and 25 yards before breaking off a career-long 40-yard scamper down the sidelines against Hillsdale.
“The thing with Michael, here’s a kid where you can’t ask for better when it comes to the work ethic,” Keys said. “Early on in camp we started to dabble (him) at corner (back) last spring because we had some really good running backs.
“We needed to get Michael back on the field. Midway through camp we moved him back over to running back and Mike has provided great production and it’s because of the way he approaches everything he does.”
Kentucky Wesleyan’s Corey Johnson has a team-best 259 yards — 122 against Malone last week.
TACKLING: While many UF defenders are multi-year starters, the same can’t be said for Kentucky Wesleyan.
Four of their top seven tacklers are freshmen.
Junior defensive back Ty Martin-Miles leads with 45 stops while true freshman defensive end Dalan Cofer has 6 tackles for loss, 21/2 sacks.
As a unit, they’ve given up 200 rushing yards four times but only one quarterback to throw for 300 yards.
“They play very hard on defense; the one thing, there’s a lot of youth,” Keys said. “Anytime you play a lot of young kids you’re going to make some mistakes.”
Football: Miles, UF defense sharpening up
By ANDY WOLF