INDIANOLA, Iowa - A ball-hawking defense forced three crucial turnovers, freshman kicker Drew Jensen made a pair of field goals and the Simpson football team knocked off No. 21 Illinois Wesleyan 13-3 on Saturday afternoon.
The quartet of Ethan Calvert, Jordan Beem, Tyler Kenny and Dylan Berkey accounted for 160 yards rushing as a ground-oriented offensive attack kept the ball out of Illinois Wesleyan's hands for most of the afternoon, helping the Storm to their first 3-0 start in 11 years.
Coming into the game averaging nearly 40 points per game, the Titans (2-1) ran 10 fewer plays than Simpson and held the ball for just 23 minutes. Freshman quarterback Jack Warner threw for 282 yards on 28 of 46 passing, but committed two turnovers in the red zone.
After Saturday's game, the Simpson defense is allowing just over five points per game.
"If you would have told me before the season that after three weeks we would have given up 16 points, I'd take it," head coach Jim Glogowski said.
Patrick Steffen's interception and 43-yard return kept Illinois Wesleyan out of the end zone late in the second quarter and Chris McKinnon sacked and stripped Warner on a promising drive in the third quarter, preserving a 10-0 lead.
Both turnovers occurred at Simpson's own 14.
"Since I've been here, this is the best three week stretch we've had as a defense as far as coming up with timely turnovers and stops in adverse situations," Glogowski said.
Simpson took a 7-0 lead mid-way through the first quarter when Berkey threw a swing pass that Beem took 31 yards for the score. Jensen made it 10-0 late in the third quarter with a 20-yard field goal that capped off a massive, 19-play drive that spanned 74 yards and chewed up 8:48.
In all, the offense rushed for 173 yards while holding Illinois Wesleyan to 65, a big reason the Storm possessed the ball for almost 37 of the 60 minutes.
"I feel like we can run the ball even when people know we're going to run it, and that's huge," Glogowski said.
Illinois Wesleyan got on the board with 7:03 left in the game when Michael Kelley made a 41-yard field goal, but Jensen responded on the very next drive.
Kicking in place of a banged up Logan Klein – who still handled kickoff and punting duties – Jensen made a 30-yard field goal with 3:42 left to give Simpson a 10-point lead an all but seal the win.
The field goal was set up when Walker Holland caught a short slant route from Berkey and ran 69 yards to the Illinois Wesleyan 7.
Berkey threw for 158 yards on 13 of 21 passing with a pair of interceptions and Holland caught three passes for 89 yards. Calvert's 58 yards on 12 carries led the running game.
Cornerback Reid Ryan made 11 tackles and broke up a pass and linebacker Brandon Abernathy had nine tackles, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. Abernathy, McKinnon, Clay Finley, Shane Venteicher, Ryan Wagers, Alex Severn and Joe Gilson all recorded at least a partial tackle for loss. Grant Eller forced Simpson's third fumble.
Highly touted All-American defensive end John Worley finished the game with three tackles and no sacks for Illinois Wesleyan.
Notes: Simpson has a bye-week next week before beginning the Iowa Conference schedule with back-to-back road contests, at Buena Vista on Oct. 4 and at Dubuque on Oct. 11 ... the last time Simpson started 3-0 was in 2003, the program's last playoff appearance ... that year Simpson started out 5-0 and finished the regular season 8-1 ... head coach Jim Glogowski passed Jay Niemann for third on Simpson's all-time wins list and is now 33-30 in seven seasons.