One of the more interesting battles of the day in the NAIA in general and Mid-South Conference in particular will be played at Nokes-Lasater Field at 1:30 p.m. today.
No. 19 Faulkner will be in Lebanon today to take on No. 25 Cumberland in a meeting of 4-2 teams. The ranking is the highest in the football history of the Eagles, who are 0-1 in the MSC West Division while the Bulldogs are 1-0.
“They have a lot of transfers at their skill spots, especially on offense,” Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said of the Eagles. “They’re tall, they’re fast-paced, they score a lot of points and they throw the ball around.”
And throwing it around is 2011 West Division Offensive Player of the Year Josh Hollingsworth, who began his collegiate career at Furman but is now in his third year as a starter for the Montgomery, Ala., school. He has completed 171 of 265 passes for 2,107 yards and 18 touchdowns during his senior season.
Steve Dawson has 36 catches for 498 yards and four touchdowns while A.J. Stevenson has 23 grabs for 421 yards and eight scores. Demetre Baker leads Faulkner rushers with 486 yards and seven TDs on 72 carries.
Faulkner is coming off a 55-31 win over No. 5 Georgetown which snapped a two-game losing streak – 28-24 to Reinhardt and 37-30 overtime heartbreaker to No. 16 Lindsey Wilson. The Eagles beat Union College 59-20 a month ago, a team which fell at Nokes-Lasater 45-42 last week.
“One week it was raining – Faulkner is a turf team – and they kind of struggled a little bit,” Suber said of one of the Eagles’ losses. “I wish it would be a monsoon rainstorm would show up on Saturday, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen.
“We went out [Wednesday] in the rain so the elements aren’t a big issue for us. We just got to show up and play.”
Faulkner runs multiple fronts on defense.
“They got some guys who can run around,” Suber said of the Eagles’ defense. “They have a very good defensive line and their secondary’s pretty good. They play a good bit of man.
“It’s going to be a tough game for us. We’re got to try to keep the ball away from them and limit the number of snaps that they run because they are a fast-paced offense. Our offense has got to stay on the field and get some drives… They’re like Oregon in the NAIA. They’re super fast-paced and they run it well.”
Cumberland has some of Oregon’s offense in its system, but not for every down.
“We want to set when we want to do it,” Suber said. “We’re not going to do it all the time because defensively we’re not built for that. But we try to speed it up and get people tired.
“They do it the whole game. It’s hard to practice and simulate their offense.”
Suber said there are no new injuries.
“We’re getting a little bit more healthy,” Suber said. “We’re still banged up on the D-line but other than that we should be in pretty good shape.”