BLOOMINGTON — Even if the weather doesn't fully cooperate Saturday — with thunderstorms a possibility — Tucci Stadium has never been a more welcome sight to Illinois Wesleyan's football team.

"Being back home, I can't describe the feeling," said IWU senior defensive tackle Chance Hilliard.

The Titans are still searching for their first victory after road losses to a pair of D3football.com ranked teams — No. 16 Wisconsin-La Crosse (33-27 in overtime) and No. 11 Wheaton (24-10).

IWU, which has dropped out of the rankings, entertains Augustana at 1 p.m. in a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin game on Family Weekend.

"We've been practicing so long and had two road games, it will be a comfortable feeling to play out there on Saturday," said IWU senior halfback Bryce Dooley.

What might not be so comfortable is the opponent.

Senior-laden Augustana is off to a 2-0 start with decisive wins against Coe (41-3) and Elmhurst (55-13) in last week's CCIW opener. A veteran offensive line, powered by five seniors, has the Vikings moving the ball equally well running (202.5 yards per game) and passing (246.0).

Quarterback Zach Fuller has completed 75 percent of his attempts for 432 yards and eight touchdowns. Tailback Bobby Jarosz has rushed for 221 yards and five TDs while averaging 6.3 yards per carry.

After Wheaton pushed back the Titan defense last week, running for 239 yards with tailback TJ Williams piling up 166 of those, Hilliard and his partners up front are looking for redemption.

"We took it pretty hard. Our run fits were not the best," said Hilliard, a Marion High School graduate whose father (Lance) and uncle (Chad) were football players at Bloomington.

"It's something we need to look in and improve ourselves. We need to work hard this week on our tackling and run fits and our keys and everything and come back this week stronger than ever and get our first win."

IWU coach Norm Eash wants both sides of the ball to play better.

The Titans' highly touted offense was held to 151 total yards and 10 first downs against Wheaton. IWU only trailed 17-10 at halftime but never mounted a serious second-half threat.

"The story offensively was we had too many three and outs. That's uncharacteristic of us," said Eash. "We counted we had seven three- or four-play and outs, and that put our defense out on the field way too much."

Dooley, who has fully recovered from a shoulder injury suffered early in training camp, is ready for the Titans' offense to bust loose. IWU rang up 554 yards against La Crosse, but burned itself with seven turnovers.

"We know we can be a great offense," said Dooley. "We're at the point where we translate that confidence that we know we can do it to just doing it.

"We have to get to the point where we're consistent, limiting the three-and-outs and driving down the football field. The big thing for us is controlling the game with time of possession and that kind of stuff."

IWU has beaten Augie four straight years, with the last two coming in Rock Island. Another CCIW loss likely would knock the Titans out of any chance for the league title.  

"I know they (the Vikings) are going to have a sense of urgency," said Eash. "But our sense has to be greater, there's no doubt about it."

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Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson


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