Aug. 25, 2009

By Amy Farnum

Despite losing 22 seniors from its NCAA quarterfinal squad a year ago, Wartburg College is ready to defend its Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in 2009.

Last season, the Knights claimed its fourth IIAC championship in the last seven years and went on to win a school-record two NCAA road playoff games.

"There are talented guys coming back that have seen significant playing time here," said head coach Rick Willis. "These players will be in much more prominent roles this year and must be ready to step up to that challenge. It's always exciting to see different guys excel and lead."

Headlining a group of seven returning offensive starters is 2008 All-IIAC quarterback Nick Yordi, who compiled school single-season records for pass completions (231), passing yardage (3,037) and total offense (3,289).

"Obviously, we are excited to have Nick back under center this fall," he said. "We'll build the offense around him and the experience he's had the past two seasons as a starter."

The No. 17 Knights travel to St. Norbert College on Sept. 5 to kick off the 2009 season.

THREE-PEAT?  Case Western Reserve University is the favorite to claim the University Athletic Association football title after winning the crown in each of the last two seasons.

The No. 16-ranked Spartans have strung together 21 straight regular season victories, earning two straight berths in the NCAA playoffs.

"Going into every season our number one goal is to win our conference," said head coach Greg Debeljak.  "We have had some success in doing that the last two years, but it hasn't been easy.  The UAA is a strong football conference.  I appreciate the respect my fellow head coaches have for us." 

The Spartans boast their largest senior class in a decade, led by Gagliardi Trophy finalist Dan Whalen.  The fourth-year starting quarterback completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,192 yards and 17 touchdowns, and ran for 271 yards and six scores last year.

Case Western hosts Kenyon College on Sept. 5 to open the 2009 season.

GREAT SCOTS:  Monmouth College lost just one offensive starter from a squad that led the nation with 46.75 points per game in 2008, and has been predicted to repeat as Midwest Conference champion.

The Fighting Scots welcome back 35 letterwinners and 14 All-MWC performers from last year's squad that won a school-record 11 games and advanced to the second round of NCAA playoffs following an unbeaten regular season in which they set or tied 71 school records.

Reigning MWC Offensive Player of the Year Alex Tanney (second team) was named to the Preseason All-America list, along with senior offensive linemen Josh Koteck (first team) and Dan Schwindenhammer (second team).  Tanney threw for a school-record 3,624 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was ranked eighth nationally with a 166.97 pass efficiency rating.

MAJOR COMEBACK:  Although Millsaps College lost 20 seniors, including 12 starters, from a 2008 squad that went undefeated in regular season play, the Majors still earned top billing in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference preseason coaches' poll.

The Majors have just five returning starters on offense, but the group includes 2008 SCAC Co-Newcomer of the Year running back Shane Bowser. 

Millsaps, which went 7-0 in SCAC play last season, will start the year at Mississippi College in the annual Backyard Brawl on Sept. 5.