Jack Healy and his Illinois Wesleyan football teammates didn't want to be in the same situation as last year. However, that's right where the Titans find themselves.

If IWU takes a cue from its standout 6-foot-5, 238-pound star senior wide receiver, there won't be any panic following a 33-27 season-opening overtime loss to Wisconsin-La Crosse.

"The loss in general does not change our mindset going forward," said Healy. "On to Wheaton now. We're not dwelling on it."

The Titans, ranked No. 18 in the D3Football.com poll, face No. 17 Wheaton in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin opener at 6 p.m. Saturday at McCully Stadium in Wheaton. IWU also lost its season opener to La Crosse in 2018 before coming back to beat Wheaton, 24-14, the following week.

"We have 23 seniors who have been through a lot," said Healy, who had seven receptions for 98 yards and two TDs last week. "After what happened we came in (Tuesday) and had a good practice. Everyone was flying around on offense and defense. We respond to adversity and know what it takes."

IWU coach Norm Eash knows his team did plenty of good things on both sides of the ball in the opener.

The Titans ran 105 plays and had 32 first downs while amassing 544 yards of total offense, including 177 yards rushing from newcomer Hamid Bullie. Defensively, IWU held La Crosse to 277 yards and 12 first downs.

But seven turnovers, including six interceptions thrown by fourth-year starter Brandon Bauer, were IWU's undoing.

"Everyone wants to look at the quarterback and it was his fault, but it's not if he's getting pressure and he's rushing his throws and we're not running the routes correctly or aligned correctly," said Eash. "He expects one thing and the receiver doesn't do it. There's a lot of little things that go into it."

IWU will be going for its third straight victory against Wheaton, something that hasn't happened since a four-game Titan winning streak in the series from 1979-82.

"I remember vividly Brandon coming into the huddle and saying 'Let's go win this thing,' " said Healy. "That's my quarterback and I always believe in him."

"I'm sure they (the Thunder) have a long memory and will be highly motivated," said Eash.

Wheaton was off last week following a 38-0 season-opening victory against Monmouth on Sept. 7. The Thunder held Monmouth to 56 yards of total offense and had three interceptions.

Offensively, Wheaton used Luke Anthony (13 of 23 for 150 yards and two TDs), a transfer from Dayton, and two other quarterbacks who are more running threats.

Having to get ready for different quarterbacks doesn't change IWU's defensive preparation much, said senior cornerback Trevor Koepke.

"We obviously have to stop both pass and run," said Koepke, who had an interception, fumble recovery and seven tackles against La Crosse. "We have to try and limit their big plays. Coach (Grant Caserta, defensive coordinator) will give us a game plan to stop their main plays."

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


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