BLOOMINGTON — When Carthage took the ball near midfield late during last Saturday's game at Tucci Stadium, one thought crossed Trevor Staley's mind.

"I knew I definitely did not want to play for overtime," said Illinois Wesleyan's junior free safety.

Staley made sure that wasn't going to happen. His interception with 26 seconds left sealed the Titans' 13-10 victory over the Red Men.

That helped keep IWU (7-1), ranked No. 12 in this week's D3football.com poll, atop the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin football standings with a 5-1 mark heading into Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Elmhurst (2-5, 2-3).

Staley, who also had five tackles against Carthage, earned his second CCIW Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts. He was selected after the Titans opened the season by upsetting Wisconsin-Whitewater.

"I'm not the biggest safety," said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Staley, a Lake Zurich High School graduate. "I try to play big and fill the holes and hit guys as hard as I can."

Staley was mainly used as a nickel back in passing situations last season. With Matt Campbell graduating, Staley knew there was an opportunity for him to make an full-time impact this season.

"Trevor is a very smart defensive back. He understands and does his homework," said IWU coach Norm Eash. "He understands what other team's schemes are passing-wise. He's a (tall) defensive back and can also come up and make plays on the run. He's a complete package for us back there."

Staley and IWU senior linebacker Jordan Hassan are the only players to twice win the CCIW Defensive Player of the Week award this season.

The Titans continue to spark defensively under first-year coordinator Jeff McDonald.

The Titans are No. 4 in Division III in rushing defense (51.5 yards per game) and eighth in scoring defense (10.9 points). Both marks lead the CCIW.

"One of the things that makes our defense one of most dominant in the league is our speed," said Staley. "Not only do we have size up front, but all of our linebackers are really fast and our defensive backs are really fast.

"A lot of the bigger teams have a lot of trouble blocking us because of our speed not only in the secondary, but up front too."

Kicker up in the air: After sophomore Patrick Tata missed an extra point and field goal against Carthage, Eash was ready to bring in senior Anthony Sciarini for the next kick during the second half.

Sciarini, who began the season as IWU's placekicker, never got the chance. So who will get the call at Elmhurst?

"They're both getting kicks (in practice) and we'll decide who will kick on Saturday," said Eash.

Sciarini lost the job in the fourth game against North Park after missing an extra point and field goal. Tata later added two field goals in that game and started the next four games.

"Kicking is so visible when they miss a field goal," said Eash. "It's a matter of being mentally tough and making sure you make the corrections and it's (on to) the next kick."

Tata will continue to handle the kickoff duties.  

Pfeiffer, Walters returning: Eash said junior punt returner Mitch Pfeiffer (concussion) and sophomore cornerback Quintin Walters (knee) will be in the lineup against Elmhurst.

Both were injured in the fifth game against Wheaton and have missed the last three games.

Pfeiffer averages 6.9 yards per punt return, with a long of 19 yards. Walters has broken up six passes and returned four kickoffs for a 23.3-yard average.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson

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