Anybody would expect the Maroons to be looking for revenge after their second-straight loss. Tomorrow's game against DePauw, however, carries personal significance.
"This is a huge one," said fourth-year captain Matt Armbruster. "Last year, [the DePauw game] was the most embarrassing of my Chicago career. This time, we can turn our whole season around."
The Maroons are optimistic after last Saturday's tough loss, which was much closer than the final score indicated. Two Chicago touchdowns were called back because of penalties in the 31-13 defeat to 1-2 Illinois Wesleyan.
"Everyone's trying to do their job, and they might be going for something extra that's not necessary. Inexperience makes those mistakes, and they'll make us better in the long run," head coach Dick Maloney said.
"We gave up a few big plays that took us down, but we learned we can play with the big boys against the Titans. We were there for 90 percent of the time, we just need to stay up for the full game," Armbruster added.
That renewed effort and commitment have been underlying goals for this year's squad after a season in which the Maroons only played up to expectations in the season opener and closer.
"We would get into a funk, and we'd just start going through the motions," Armbruster recalled. "Now, we know we can win."
"We've got great senior leadership and a large freshman class that fits in well with our team concept. They've rededicated and recommitted themselves to the game, and it's going to have positive results," Maloney said.
While 2-2 DePauwwhich cruised to a 51-10 win at home last yearis not as good as in previous year, the Tigers still feature a strong passing game behind third-year Ross Wiethoff that led third-ranked Trinity of Texas until the final play last week.
"That's still a good team, and they're going to want to lick their wounds and take a tough loss out on someone," Maloney said.
Among the coaching staff's priorities for this week are controlling the perimeter to stop DePauw's skilled offensive players from running in addition to addressing the quarterback situation. Second-years Phil Marino and Marc Zera have both seen substantial playing time over the first three games, alternating on every down last weekend against the Titans. Zera went 12-20 with two touchdowns and two interceptions for 141 yards. Marino added a 6-16 performance with an interception for 101 yards, but he had a 74 yard completion negated on a holding penalty. Even more important were the 12 sacks Chicago allowed, which negated a number of drives.
"We're trying to give them the fairest opportunity," Maloney said. "We've got faith in them both, they've both got a good command of the offense. They both deserve a good look."
In early action this season, the Maroons dominated North Park in a 40-20 win on September 11 and fell to a record-setting performance by Elmhurst quarterback Dominic Demma in a 39-27 loss to the Blue Jays on the road the following week.
"We made a lot of mental errors against Elmhurst, and that leads to big plays," Maloney said. "They got it rolling early. We did have a nice comeback in the fourth quarter, but we couldn't quite pull it off. We will need to play better in the last quarter if we're going to be successful."
Armbruster agreed, adding that, "we stopped playing in the fourth quarter. We need to be playing the full game together to win.
"North Park wasn't the same caliber as the Bluejays. It was a warm-up game for us."