There was the emotion of last week’s homecoming victory and a school-record 169th win for Coach Norm Eash.
Unbeaten Illinois Wesleyan also can peek at the schedule and see make-or-break College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin games looming ahead against Wheaton and North Central in the next two weeks.
If ever there was a so-called “trap game,” Saturday's contest would qualify for the 22nd-ranked Titans.
IWU (5-0, 2-0 CCIW) can’t afford to stumble when it travels to face Carthage (1-4, 0-2) at 6 p.m. at Art Keller Stadium in Kenosha, Wis.
“They’ll be ready to play. If we’re not ready to play they’ll jump all over us like they did two years ago,” said IWU wide receiver Tate Musselman, a fifth-year senior. “We had to come back in the fourth quarter (for a 13-9 win). We, as a senior class, have to keep (the team’s mindset) that we have to come out ready to play like we did last week.”
IWU jumped all over North Park. The Titans scored on their first five possessions and cruised to a 52-21 victory over the Vikings.
“In the past couple weeks we had not hit on all cylinders,” said Musselman, who caught one of Rob Gallik’s three TD passes against North Park. “It was a good group effort last week.”
Eash has warned his team all week it will take the same kind of effort today. That might be a tough sell because two weeks ago North Park ended its 89-game CCIW losing streak (that dated to 2000) by beating Carthage, 22-20.
Yet Eash said he has taken the long bus ride to Kenosha enough times to know nothing can be taken for granted.
“I have a lot of respect for Carthage and their program and after 27 years I think it’s the toughest place to play on the road (in the CCIW),” said Eash. “They always seem to defend their turf very well. We prepare like every game is a step toward the championship.”
Carthage has lost four straight games since opening the season with a 52-6 victory over Lakeland. The Red Men have a new head coach in Mike Yeager, who moved up from defensive coordinator to replace Tim Rucks.
While Carthage still uses the same defense, Eash said the Red Men are running the ball a lot more offensively although they rank last in the CCIW with 87.2 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback A.J. Simoncelli ranks No. 4 in the CCIW in passing by completing 106 of 183 attempts for 1,037 yards with four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“They’re always an aggressive, hard-nosed type of team,” said Eash. “They have young players playing, but those young players are six games into the schedule. They’ve played some good opponents in Wartburg, Adrian and Wheaton.”
Trap game?: IWU at Carthage
Time: 6 p.m. Saturday