This may not be the best time for Cumberland to be starting Mid-South Conference West Division play.
Despite an open date last week, the Bulldogs are banged up in key positions as they travel to Jackson, Miss., for today's 1:30 p.m. division opener.
A forecast of rain is not helping matters, either.
"They have two big backs, so I'm sure they'll run the ball against us since it's supposed to rain down there, which i'm hoping not happens," first-year Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said following Thursday's practice. "Their backs weigh 225, 230. If they start hammering us with the ball we might be in a little bit of trouble since we're thin on the defensive line anyway.
"They're a big, physical team and if they get their hands on you, you could be in trouble."
The Bulldogs went into the off week 0-2 after facing FCS team Tennessee Tech and NAIA No. 8 Cumberlands. But they got no healthier during the break.
"It wasn't kind to us at all," Suber said. "The first week was fine and then this week we lost a [defensive back]. Grant Jones got a heel bruise and can't walk. He was on crutches yesterday."
Defensive lineman Devin Guthrie was also banged up and won't play and Simon Moriarty is still trying to recover from a back injury. Receiver Dillon Kirkham is now shooting for next week's home opener against Bluefield, Suber said.
"We got a little banged up, a little thin," Suber said. "We'll do what we can."
Belhaven is 1-2 with a 36-26 win over Texas College and a 38-7 loss to Louisiana College. The Blazers lost to Cumberlands 41-17 last week after the Bulldogs lost to the Patriots 41-10 the week before.
"They're big, strong and fast," Suber said of the Blazers. "They've always been big on offense. They have a lot of returners coming back on offense. On the defensive side of the ball, I believe they have only two. They have some junior-college transfers coming in.
"They played the Cumberlands really well on defense. On offense, they struggled, kind of like we did."
After this week, the road-weary Bulldogs will return home for four straight games and five of their six contests at Nokes-Lasater Field, starting with a visit from second-year Bluefield, which is also seeking its first win.
"On paper, it looks like [the schedule's] getting easier," Suber said. "But we got a long way to go. We're an inexperienced team. We're playing a lot of young players which will help us down the road."