WARRENSBURG — For just the second time in program history, playoff football will take place at Walton Stadium when No. 4 seeded Central Missouri hosts No. 5 University of Indianapolis at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The last home playoff game came nearly a decade ago in 2010 while the Mules last playoff game came in 2016.
Central Missouri is coming off a 10-1 regular season that saw the Mules claim a share of the MIAA title with Northwest Missouri State, who beat UCM 45-23 in the season finale and enters the playoffs as the No. 3 seed.
The Mules, who are ranked No. 15 going into the postseason, are 2-3 all-time in the playoffs and 2-2 under head coach Jim Svoboda.
UIndy went 9-1 in the regular season, finishing second in the Great Lakes Valley Conference behind for MIAA school Lindenwood, who made the playoffs for the first time at the No. 7 seed, with a 6-1 mark in conference play. This is the Greyhounds, who rank No. 14 nationally, sixth straight playoff appearance
“They beat Hays last year in the first round of playoffs, so they aren’t afraid of anybody,” Central Missouri coach Jim Svoboda said on his radio show Tuesday, Nov. 19.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools on the gridiron.
UCM Offense vs. UIndy Defense
The Mules bring the No. 1 total offense with them to the playoffs. Central Missouri is averaging 570.1 yards per game and scoring at a clip of 48.6 points per game, ranked third nationally.
Senior Brook Bolles has been the conductor of the offense and was rewarded with the MIAA Offensive Player of the Year. Bolles comes in averaging 351.2 yards per game through the air with 39 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
What has set this Central Missouri apart has been the work of its receiving corps after the catch.
The Mules have three receivers averaging over 20 yards per reception,
“That’s the difference between us and most teams who are throwing the ball,” Svoboda said.
Tight end Zach Davidson is averaging 23.41 yards per catch, ranking sixth nationally. Sophomore Shae Wyatt is just behind Davidson at 23.19 ypc, ranking seventh.
Junior Cam Saunders checks in at No. 20 at 20.29 yards per catch.
“(Saunders) has been a nice addition this year,” Svoboda said.
The Mules running game is close to producing its first 1,000 yard rusher since 2014 with Devante Turner sitting at 900 yards and averaging 81.8 yards per game. Koby Wilkerson isn’t far off Turner’s pace with 726 yards with 40 fewer carries.
The Greyhounds come in limiting teams to 15.8 points per game and just 311.2 yards.
UIndy has forced 24 turnovers, with defensive back Mitch Dewitt accounting for three interceptions.
The Hounds have racked up 26 sacks this year with Jacob Schmatz notching 4.5 and Alex Parson adding 13 tackles for loss.
UCM Defense vs. UIndy Offense
The Greyhounds come in two spots ahead of the Mules nationally in scoring averaging at 49.1 points per game. UIndy has averaged 520.3 yards on offense, the third best mark in the nation.
Indianapolis has scored 48 or more points in all but two games this season.
“You can say what you want about the strength of schedule and comparing the conferences, the bottom line is ...they’ve done about as good as you can do, against who they’ve had to play,” Svoboda said. “It is not their fault that some of the competition isn’t that stiff game in and game out, but they’ve dominated.”
UIndy has a star quarterback of its own in TJ Edwards. The senior signal caller has thrown for 2,192 yards while completing 65% of his passes for 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
Leading the rushing attack is Al McKeller, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards with 1,040 and 16 touchdowns.
“Those are two nifty players,” Svoboda said. “That quarterback is a very cool customer back there, never gets rattled. That back has great balance.”
Central Missouri comes in allowing 410.9 yards per game and 29.4 points per game.
“We’ve got some challenges in the tempo they play with and the efficiency that they play with,” Svoboda said.
The Greyhound have only been penalized 55 times this season and turned the ball over just seven times — four interceptions, three fumbles.
“You are going to have to earn it against these guys,” Svoboda said.