Dragons head to Detroit to take on strong Warriors

Tiffin University coach Gary Goff said he and his staff have been searching for weaknesses in Wayne State, the team the Dragons are set to tangle with this afternoon in Detroit.

The result?

“We can’t seem to find ’em,” Goff said. “They’re good.”

Not that it’s a surprise.

“Ever since I’ve been at Tiffin, Wayne State has been a really good program, one of the best programs in the conference,” Goff said. “It’s the same this year. Nothing is new. They’re big, strong and fast on both sides of the ball. They play hard. We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us.”

Goff has an idea on how TU can address that challenge.

“We’ve got to do a good job protecting the football,” Goff said. “If you go look at their games, they’ve done a good job of getting the ball. They’ve had quite a few takeaways, so we’ve got to make sure we protect the football.”

And that’s because when the Warriors get the ball, they don’t give it back for a while.

As in past years, Wayne State is run-first. Last week, in a 50-7 thumping of Lake Erie, the Warriors rushed for 436 yards, an average of more than nine yards a carry.

The main culprit in that ground assault was Romello Brown, who ran for 172 yards and a TD. Brown is averaging about 130 yards a contest over his first three games.

“It wasn’t even a contest,” Goff said of the Warriors’ victory last week. “They’ve done a good job of being up on people and getting up on them early in the game. I think last week, it was 46-0 at halftime, and then you know, they ran the daylights out of the ball the second half.”

But Goff said the Warriors also will use the pass game effectively. Donovan Zezula threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Storm.

Goff also is impressed with receiver Jamel Hicks, who had five catches for 104 yards last week.

“They take shots downfield. (Hicks) is a very talented receiver,” Goff said. “They like to get him in one-on-one matchups, take shots down the field. He’s made some big plays so far for them. They’ve got a running attack working for them right now, and their quarterback is pretty effective in the air.”

The Dragons, who have won two straight, will be countering with a running game of their own.

Those responsibilities – or at least part of them – will fall on freshman running backs Kyle Brunson and JaQuan Hardy, as well as junior back Jerry Brown.

Goff said Brunson and Hardy, who have combined to run for 339 yards and three touchdowns over the team’s first three games, are handling their first taste of college ball well.

“They got a lot of confidence right now,” Goff said. “We knew that recruiting them, but both young men are confident young men, and don’t shy away from contact. They’ve got a great understanding of the offense, and they understand it’s their job to get four-plus yards every carry. They also understand the rotation we’ve got going right now with the three backs, keeping all three of them fresh come the fourth quarter.”

And that rotation in the backfield is key to what TU is doing on offense.

“That’s our plan. You look at football at any level right now, and even the NFL teams are using 2-3 backs right now,” Goff said. “I think that’s how the game’s evolved. One guy can’t continue to take every hit, and the pounding throughout the course of a year. We saw that last year with Jerry Brown. I think these two have made Jerry Brown a better player because he’s fresher later in the game.”

TU is likely to need that today. But Goff said it also will need a complete game; a performance similar to the one the Dragons gave two seasons ago when they pulled an upset in Detroit.

“We’re gonna go up there into a hostile environment. We won up there two years ago, but we played extremely hard and our kids were very excited the entire football game,” Goff said. “We’ve got to go up there and do the same thing.”

Kickoff is at noon.