BLOOMINGTON — Mike Murphy knows he's not going to overpower many blockers down in the trenches at 230 pounds.
The Illinois Wesleyan junior defensive tackle also is smart enough to know he doesn't need to exert brute force in order to get the quarterback.
"I use my hands and quickness," said Murphy, who stands 6-foot-3. "You get the first step on them and you get them off balance, that's when you take away the weight from them."
Murphy made the transition from end to inside last season and has really started to feel comfortable this season. He has recorded all five of the Titans' sacks and looks to add to that total at 1 p.m. Saturday when IWU (1-2) celebrates homecoming against Carroll (1-2) in a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin game at Tucci Stadium.
Thanks to his impressive three-sack performance in last Saturday's 21-17 victory over Augustana, Murphy is the CCIW sacks leader by 2½.
When IWU moved standout Eric Dubose from tackle to end after last season's opening game, Murphy took over at the 3-technique spot. For someone who was an outside linebacker/standup defensive end at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, it was a different environment.
"You're dealing with a lot more weight inside," said Murphy. "You really have to use your hands a lot more, too ... and not rely on speed and running around people. This year, in the fall, is where I really felt I'm ready."
Murphy did record six sacks last season, including 2½ in the season finale. For those counting, that's 7½ sacks in his last four games.
"Mike has become a very smart interior player," said IWU coach Norm Eash. "He adjusts to the guard he's playing across from and he figures out pretty quickly what he can and can't do against them. People don't realize his speed and quickness. I would much rather have speed and quickness over size."
Murphy has tried to take some of the skills he learned as a standup defensive end to the inside against players "who aren't used to that kind of movement."
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However, Murphy can't go what Eash calls "rogue" and just concentrate on getting sacks. At his tackle spot, Murphy must maintain his "gap integrity" or else a big play could happen.
"As a 3 tech (tackle), you have to stay in that B gap," said Murphy. "When you get out of it, it creates huge creases for the running backs. You look at film — and plays I've almost lost my gap integrity — and you just see the wide open field. It's pretty scary."
The Titans' defense helped preserve their elusive first win against Augustana, stopping the Vikings 10 yards from the end zone to end the game.
While that pleased Murphy and his defensive teammates, they weren't real thrilled about allowing 437 yards.
"We can really improve on every aspect," said Murphy. "While 17 points doesn't seem like a lot, we gave up way too many yards against a team we felt we were a lot better than."
Paslay sparkles: Senior Ryan Paslay gave IWU's stalled running attack a lift against Augustana.
Paslay gained 33 yards on eight carries, all but one in the fourth quarter, in relief of starter Hamid Bullie (14 carries, 32 yards). Eash said the Titans will use both backs against Carroll along with senior Bryce Dooley, who is more of a pass-catching threat.
"Ryan is a little different runner than Hamid," said Eash. "Ryan is more downhill and straight ahead, where Hamid is more of a lateral runner."
Injury update: Eash said senior strong safety Jake Kapp is questionable for Saturday's game. Junior Liam Krammer would take over if Kapp, who has 12 tackles, isn't available.
Senior placekicker Patrick Tata has missed the first three games and is still questionable with a leg injury. Two freshmen — Jonathan Rukujzo (field goals, extra points) and Andrew Stange (kickoffs) — have continued to impress Eash, although Rukujzo missed a 21-yard field goal on the game's opening drive last week.