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Winning team

Illinois Wesleyan senior linebacker Jordan Hassan, left, celebrates with Titans coach Norm Eash after a season-opening 17-10 victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater on Sept. 2, 2017 at Tucci Stadium in Bloomington. Hassan was named the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Defensive Player of the Year and Eash was tabbed Coach of the Year.

BLOOMINGTON — Jack Healy doesn't believe Illinois Wesleyan's offense will revel long in last week's season-opening upset victory over No. 3-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater.

"After watching film there were a lot of opportunities we kind of missed that we want improve on in the future," said IWU's 6-foot-5 sophomore wide receiver. "We all know what our job is and what we have to improve on. We definitely expect improvement this week."

Healy, who caught two touchdown passes during IWU's 17-10 season-opening win, and the Titans entertain Nebraska Wesleyan (0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tucci Stadium.

The victory over Whitewater vaulted IWU to No. 14 in this week's poll. Titan coach Norm Eash has been around long enough to know that automatically puts "a bulls-eye" on his team.

"Our biggest obstacle facing us Saturday is ourselves," said Eash. "Our kids need to set standards that we want to play at a certain level and we should ... now people are trying to beat us. We have to defend that and play like the 14th-ranked team in the country."

Healy is part of a sophomore class that had five starters and several top reserves on the field against Whitewater. 

The Titans graduated most of their top receivers after last season. Healy, who had five receptions for 61 yards in the opener, and fellow sophomores Liam Keffer (three catches for 22 yards) and Zach Walsh have stepped right in to fill the void.

While Healy said IWU basketball coach Ron Rose won't be calling him any time soon to help out in the winter, the Titans know they have a receiver in the end zone for "jump-ball" situations.

"I have confidence in myself over any DB (defensive back) on a one-on-one ball that I should catch it any time," said Healy. "That has to be your mindset anytime."

Healy, a Glenbrook South High School graduate, didn't just earn Eash's praise for his pass-catching abilities in the opener. The IWU coach relished a bone-jarring block Healy put on a Whitewater defender to help spring junior tailback Morgan Alexander for a nice gain early in the game.

"Maybe we should have looked at him (Healy) as a linebacker," said Eash.

Healy wasn't on the travel roster and didn't make the trip to Lincoln, Neb., last year when IWU rallied in the second half to beat Nebraska Wesleyan, 17-13, in the first-ever meeting between the schools.

Nebraska Wesleyan's season began last week with a 34-14 home loss to Concordia (Minn.). The Prairie Wolves were done in by six turnovers.

Jonathan Curti, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound sophomore, is Nebraska Wesleyan's new quarterback this season. Curti went 25 of 44 for 262 yards and two TDs against Concordia, but threw five interceptions.

IWU's defense forced three turnovers against Whitewater, all on fumble recoveries. The Titans stuffed Whitewater's running game, but allowed 258 yards in the air.

"We have to work more on pass defense and make plays as defensive backs," said IWU sophomore cornerback Trevor Koepke, who had two key fumble recoveries in the opener. "Our run defense was unbelievable."

Nebraska Wesleyan halfback Shaka Taylor, who gained 102 yards in the opener, is injured and won't play.

Follow Jim Benson on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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