HU offense to be tested by Cards

Otterbein likely is to be the toughest team Heidelberg has faced so far this season.

Certainly, the Cardinals have the best defense HU will have seen. Otterbein (3-2, 3-1 Ohio Athletic Conference) allows a little more than 16 points a game.

Heidelberg, unbeaten and the No. 12 team in Division III, allows about the same amount of points.

The difference is on offense. The Cardinals average around 12 points a game.

Heidelberg averages about 62.

So there’s a bit of a disparity there.

“I think they kind of struggled finding their identity early in the season,” Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said. “That’s pretty common for coaches when you have graduations and you think ‘well, we’ll just keep doing the same things that we’ve done. And I don’t know if they had the success they were hoping for doing that.”

But Hallett said he sees Otterbein’s offense improving.

“I think they’re settling into some things that they feel good about,” Hallett said.

The Cardinals have used two quarterbacks in Ben Sizemore and Brick Davis. Sizemore has seen the majority of the snaps, and has thrown for 691 yards and six touchdowns. Otterbein quarterbacks have thrown 126 passes in five games, but have yet to throw an interception.

“Those guys are doing very well,” Hallett said. “They’ve got some weapons to throw to, with Jeremy McCoy (289 receiving yards) and [Steven] Carpenter (320 receiving yards, four touchdowns), and a list of guys they’ve gotten the ball to, but McCoy and Carpenter are their two go-to guys.”

Drew Ervin is the Cardinals’ leading rusher; he’s gone for 328 yards on 56 carries, an average of almost six yards a rush.

“They’ve kind of had an identity crisis there, in that, when they were really rolling, they had guys like [Eric] Yates and Colten Coy, and they were a very good run-the-ball team,” Hallett said. “I think last year they got away from that a little bit, but against BW [this season] they found Drew Ervin, who ended up with 200 yards-plus in the game.”

But it’s the defense that makes one take notice.

Defensive end Zach Grieves -brother of former HU standout Matt Grieves -has 27 tackles this season, three for a loss. Austin Jones, a freshman inside linebacker, has made an immediate impact with a team-high 47 tackles, seven for a loss.

“They’ve got really good players; their front line guys are really good,” Hallett said.

It will also be a challenge for Heidelberg for another reason. It’s a 7 p.m. start in Westerville that figures to be in front of a fired up and upset-minded crowd.

“I think Ohio Northern’s a good football team,” Hallett said. “I think the other teams that we played, we saw some bottom-tier teams. No offense to those teams, but Alma’s in a rebuilding process, Wilmington [has] a first-year head coach, Capital, first-year head coach, Marietta first-year head coach. It takes time to get established and get your things up and running.

“So I don’t know we’ve played the toughest competition. Otterbein’s a different animal.”