ELMHURST — Zach Walsh has shown an ability to make big catches for Illinois Wesleyan's football team this season.
What the sophomore wide receiver didn't catch this week is any overconfident vibes from his College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin-leading teammates heading into Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Elmhurst at Langhorst Field.
"We don't look at a team's record and say we're going to walk into a game and win it," said Walsh.
The No. 12-ranked Titans are rolling along with a five-game winning streak, improving their record to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the CCIW. North Central and Millikin are right behind IWU at 4-1.
Elmhurst (2-5, 2-3) had a bye last week, so the Bluejays enjoyed two weeks to prepare for the Titans since a 31-8 loss at Carthage on Oct. 14.
"They went over what we do defensively and offensively very thoroughly," said IWU coach Norm Eash. "Their kids will be ready to play against us from that standpoint ... We're approaching Elmhurst like Wheaton, North Central or Carthage or any team. It's a game we have to win."
IWU has its bye next week before finishing at home against Millikin on Nov. 11. The Titans know the worst they can do with victories in their last two games is share the CCIW title, with a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs almost guaranteed.
Walsh is part of an IWU sophomore receiving group that has emerged this season. He has 23 receptions for 308 yards and two touchdowns.
The first score came on a 12-yard pass from Brandon Bauer with six seconds left to upset Wheaton. The next time Walsh found the end zone was when Bauer hit him with a 16-yard strike in the third quarter last week that gave IWU the lead in a 13-10 win over Carthage.
It's been quite a season for Walsh, who didn't even travel to away games with IWU last season.
"The biggest thing for me was the playbook. It takes a while to adjust to a college playbook," said Walsh. "Having extra practices in the spring and then the Japan trip (in early June), I got to adjust to the speed playing up with first and second team and I got to learn the playbook as well."
Those Titans who made the trip to Elmhurst two years ago remember freshman quarterback Orlando Hernandez nearly knocked off unbeaten IWU.
Hernandez made his first start that day and helped the Bluejays forge a 28-all tie early in the fourth quarter. IWU finally pulled away for a 49-28 victory.
"He's very dynamic and a threat as a runner," said Eash. "He can still throw the ball. Defensively we have be aware of that and not let him get in the ball game."
Hernandez is Elmhurst's leading rusher with 315 yards. He has completed 89 of 179 attempts for 986 yards and 10 TDs, but has thrown a CCIW-high 11 interceptions.
"If we're able to contain him and make him try to make plays down the field, I think we'll have a lot of success against him," said IWU free safety Trevor Staley.
Elmhurst averages only 15.9 points per game, second to worst in the CCIW. Meanwhile, IWU leads the league in scoring defense at 10.9 points, which ranks eighth nationally in Division III.
IWU's running game found a stone wall against Carthage. Morgan Alexander, who was leading the CCIW in rushing, was held to 19 yards on 22 carries as the Titans had 5 net yards rushing.
"They (the Bluejays) are not a big pressure team, but they've had two weeks and might be able to bring pressure against us," said Eash. "We have to expect that and be ready to handle it."