Johnny Feauto and the rest of the Kansas Wesleyan offense knew McPherson boasted the fourth-ranked passing defense in the NAIA entering their game Saturday.
Feauto, the NAIA’s leader in passing yardage and total offense, threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 3-ranked Coyotes rolled to an impressive 48-14 Kansas Conference rout at Graves Family Sports Complex.
Feauto was 16 of 20 passing and did all his damage in the first half as KWU stormed to a 41-0 halftime lead. He then donned a green baseball hat and watched the second half from the sideline along with several other starters.
McPherson entered the contest allowing an average of 140 yards passing per game but couldn’t contain Feauto and Co.
“We’re confident in all of our receivers and just going over the top (of the defense),” Feauto said. “We’ve been doing it all year so it doesn’t matter who we play against. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The victory raises KWU’s record to 9-0, 8-0 in the KCAC. McPherson, which had won its previous five games, falls to 5-3.
After a slow start Feauto found his rhythm on the third drive of the game. KWU went 99 yards in 10 plays aided by two defensive pass interference calls on the Bulldogs. Feauto capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Poe-Evans — the first of his four scoring receptions on the day.
The second quarter might have been the Coyotes’ best of the season. They scored 34 points, four on passing touchdown, three to Poe-Evans. They shredded McPherson’s defense for 380 total yards on 41 plays the first half – an eye-popping 9.3 yards per play.
After Demarco Prewitt scored from the 1 to make it 13-0 with 12:42 left in the half, Feauto’s barrage began. He threw a 60-yard scoring strike Poe-Evans, then 15-yards to Poe-Evans, a 30-yarder to Steve Williams and 38 yards to Poe-Evans with 18 seconds left before the break.
Feauto said his job’s easy with Poe-Evans and Williams on the field. Poe-Evans had six receptions for 147 yards and Williams five for 150 yards.
“When the ball’s out to them one-on-one they’re either coming down with it or it’s going to be pass interference, and I feel confident in that every time I throw it to them one-on-one,” he said.
“We were really firing on all cylinders in the passing game,” Poe-Evans said. “Stevie played great, Rich (McCauley) played great … we were all finding ways to get open and our O-line was getting a good push.”
KWU coach Myers Hendrickson was understandably pleased and impressed.
“The second quarter was the best quarter we’ve played all year and probably the first half was the best half we’ve played all year,” he said. “Our defense put us in good positions and offensively we were able to take some shots down the field and were accurate about it.”
Hendrickson said the Coyotes exploited what McPherson was doing defensively.
“They started to cheat their safety over the top of Stevie Williams and Poe-Evans was able to go down the seam and get some huge plays,” he said. “Our motto on offense is ‘take what the defense gives you’ and that’s what we did.”
Defensively the Coyotes were equally impressive.
The Bulldogs finished with 217 total yards. Quarterback Ed Crouch was 15 of 39 for 158 yards, two interceptions, was sacked nine times that lost 56 yards and under constant pressure the rest of the time. He also rushed for 12 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
KWU’s lone second-half touchdown came when linebacker Charles Barnes III picked up a Crouch fumble and ran 23 yards for a touchdown with 9:01 left in the third quarter.
McPherson scored on the final play of the third quarter and again midway through the final period.
Senior end Shaq Bradford said he and his defensive teammates were determined to play well after giving up 47 points a week earlier against Avila.
“We knew we had a pretty poor performance last week and wanted to make the statement that we are the top defense and that’s what we came to do,” said Bradford, who had 1.5 sacks. “We communicated throughout the whole game, everybody knew what they had to do and we all did our job. We kept it real simple. We played a complete game.”
“Defense played phenomenal,” Hendrickson said. “We played a great quarterback last week (John Jacobs III), I’m not so sure we played a better one this week and the defense played their best game of the year.”
Hendrickson said his team succeeded in getting pressure on Crouch.
“We kept him very uncomfortable the whole game,” he said. “Our defense did a great job containing him so they were able to get sacks – the most sacks we’ve had all year against the most athletic quarterback we’ve played.”
Bradford said he and his teammates were inspired to play for former Coyote head coach Matt Drinkall, whose mother passed away October 21.
“I put her initials on my cleats and I definitely did that for her and my grandpa that passed last year,” he said.
Bradford also was upset the Coyotes dropped from second to third in the NAIA coach poll after their one-point victory over Avila.
“I told the guys before the game I’m (angry) about it, I didn’t like that, they don’t respect us,” he said. “I told them before this game started we need to make a statement.”
The Coyotes will try and secure their second consecutive KCAC title next Saturday when they travel to Sterling to play the No. 21-ranked Warriors. Sterling defeated Southwestern 20-17 in overtime Saturday in Sterling. The Warriors tied with the game 17-17 on a 64-yard touchdown pass with 1½ minutes left in regulation and won with a field goal in overtime.
“Sterling at their place, it’s the only grass field in this conference,” Feauto said. “It’s a big game, we’re looking forward to it. This one’s over and we’ve got to go 1-0 next week.”
*Photos by Tanner Colvin*