BLOOMINGTON — The performance of Illinois Wesleyan defensive tackle Justin Krzeczkowski this season has definitely been noticed by opposing coaches.

"I was going across (the field) to shake the Carroll coach's hand," said IWU coach Norm Eash following the Titans' 30-0 victory last Saturday. "He (Mark Krzykowski) was walking away from me and I'm thinking something is wrong."

Instead, the Carroll coach headed straight towards Krzeczkowski. Eash said he read Krzykwoski's lips when the Carroll coach told the IWU senior with a similar last name, "You're one helluva football player."

"Any time you get a compliment from another team's head coach it's really nice," said Krzeczkowski. "It made me feel good after a win. I've never gotten that before."

The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Krzeczkowski anchors the Titan defensive line. He has helped the Titans rank first in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, and No. 3 in Division III, in rushing defense (50.4 yards per game).

IWU, which is ranked No. 11 in the poll, entertains Carthage at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tucci Stadium in a crucial CCIW game.

Krzeczkowski, who is an IWU captain, was a second-team all-CCIW selection last season. He seems headed for first-team honors this season, with 8½ tackles for loss and three sacks.

"Justin has been playing great all year," said Eash. "Justin is a force in there and is going to allow our linebackers to have great games, and they have. He's a dominant defensive lineman in our league."

Krzeczkowski and the IWU defense recorded its second shutout of the season against Carroll while holding the Pioneers to 200 yards of total offense (and only four yards rushing).

The last time the Titans registered three shutouts was in 1996 when they went 9-0 in the regular season.

"While you're playing during a shutout, it's the most fun I've had as a defensive player because the intensity is there the entire game," said Krzeczkowski. "The will and want to keep the shutout going is there. It's really fun when there's a '0' on the scoreboard the entire game."

Frantic CCIW race: When Wheaton completed a 42-20 victory over North Central on Monday in a game suspended Saturday night by lightning, it created a logjam at the top of the CCIW standings.

The Titans (6-1 overall) are atop the league with a 4-1 mark. Carthage, North Central and Millikin are next at 3-1 after already having their bye weeks. 

IWU still has to play Millikin in the season finale on Nov. 11. Carthage has remaining games against Millikin (Oct. 28) and North Central (Nov. 4).

"We're right where we want to be," said Eash, as the Titans seek their first CCIW title since 2009 when they shared with North Central. "Right now we control our own destiny.

"After the Wheaton game (a 14-10 win on Sept. 30) we came up with the saying 'anything is possible,' but we have to wait for someone else to help us. Wheaton helped us by beating North Central." 

Injury update: Eash said cornerback Quintin Walters (knee) is questionable after missing the last two games. Tight end Andrew Apel (knee) remains out indefinitely.

Punt returner Mitch Pfeiffer (concussion) also won't play Saturday, but Eash hopes the junior wide receiver returns next week at Elmhurst.

Milestones for Eash? If IWU can win its remaining three games, it would represent some historic numbers for Eash in his 31st season as Titan coach.

Eash has compiled a 197-102-1 record since taking over at his alma mater in 1987. There are seven active Division III coaches with 200 career victories, with Wittenberg's Joe Fincham also at 197.

Three more CCIW wins also would tie Eash with his coach at IWU, Don Larson (1954-86), for most wins in league history with 142.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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