Sep 11, 2017

Game Preview: Bruins Host No. 21 Redlands In Home Opener

A Winning Tradition

 
  • One post-season appearance (1960 Crusader Bowl)
  • 20 All-NWC Athletes 
  • 6 NWC Student-Athlete of the Week Awards 
  • 2 D3Football.com Team of the Week (Justin Leatherman, 2014; Lenana Meekisho, 2015)
  • 1 D3Football.com All-West Region Team (Nolan Schuler, 2016)
  • 2 NSCA All-American (Justin Kruse, 2015; Dane Jensen, 2017)
  • 2 NFL Draft Picks 
 

By Alex Plusquellec

NEWBERG, Ore. --- After nearly pulling off an upset on the road over a ranked opponent in week one, the Bruins take their shot at another top-25 team as the University of Redlands travels to Stoffer Family Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16.

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The Bruins' matchup with the No. 21 Bulldogs is the third in as many years, and part three of the trilogy is sure to provide as much excitement as the previous duels. In 2015, it was the Bruins who scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute on John Shaffer's 2-yard run in front of a capacity Stoffer crowd. A year ago, it was Redlands who got the best of the Bruins, 31-22, despite a second-half charge behind Brad Lander's career day and the leg of Uriel Gonzalez.

In the season opener against Wisconsin-Platteville, the Bruins started slow despite an early touchdown. After finding themselves in a 27-7 hole in the second half, quarterback Grant Schroeder and company chipped away and found themselves in position to win the game late. The moxie shown on both sides of the ball will be a key when taking on a Redlands team that opened the season with a dominating 32-7 win over Trinity (Texas).

The Bulldogs return key offensive starters who have experience against the Bruins' defense. Senior quarterback Mitch Kidd returns along with his top target, senior wideout Cole Blackburn. As a first-year starter a year ago, Kidd threw for 1,684 yards and 20 touchdowns while Blackburn racked up 54 catches for just over 600 yards.

The duo of Kidd and Blackburn will be protected by an all-upperclassmen offensive line that returns two All-SCIAC selections from a year ago in senior Matt Schallert and junior Tommy Garcia.

The Bulldogs' defense is sure to be a tough test for the Bruins. In their season opener, Redlands held Trinity to just 78 yards passing and 84 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. The unit is led by senior linebacker Mitch Shepard, who totaled 62 tackles a season ago and was awarded SCIAC Defensive Athlete of the Year. Behind him in the secondary is fellow senior Dustin Nascimento, who led the team with 78 tackles in 2016.

With both the Bruins and Redlands returning experience on offense and defense, fans should expect another fight to the finish. If the last two years are any indication, Saturday's contest could come down to turnovers, penalties and whoever has the ball last.