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Bulldogs still have playoff pulse
Nov 10, 2012 12:00 am
Cumberland closes season at Lindsey Wilson
By ANDY REED
After watching the election returns along with the rest of America earlier this week, Dewayne Alexander and the Cumberland Bulldogs figure to be scoreboard watching after their season-ending game at Lindsey Wilson on Saturday afternoon.
Given up for dead for the 16-team NAIA playoffs after a loss at Bethel a couple of weeks ago, the Bulldogs now have a pulse, Alexander said.
"I would have told you this time last week we had no shot at the playoffs," Alexander said following Thursday's practice at Nokes-Lasater Field. "But I can tell you right now the meter has moved up to maybe the 50-60-percent range because of the number of teams that got beat last week. There were seven teams that were ranked between 15-25 that all lost last Saturday and we moved up from 26th to 21st.
"There's a lot of games of teams ranked 19th, 18th, 17th, 15th this week where they are playing quality opponents or higher-ranked teams. If Bethel loses and we win, there wouldn't be an automatic qualifier from our league, but we would have the best record and there is the possibility that we could get in."
After Cumberland's 1:30 p.m. game in Columbia, Ky., Bethel will kick off at Belhaven at 7 p.m. in the Mid-South Conference West Division finale. Bethel is ranked 18th, is 7-3 overall and leads the division at 5-0. Belhaven and Faulkner are both 6-4 with four wins apiece in the division while the Bulldogs are 7-3, 3-2.
But other than Cumberland's game, the Bulldogs have no control over what else happens in the NAIA poll. But they can finish the season with eight wins.
"None of that matters, we've blocked all of that out of our mind," Alexander said. "We need to win Saturday and all you can do is watch the scores and see what happens.
"But this team here, we don't have any trouble getting up for a football game. Last week, we came out after a disappointing loss at Bethel and, even though Bluefield is not as good as some of the opponents we've played, we played very well... Our guys hustled around, we executed real well, we played with a lot of energy."
Lindsey Wilson, a third-year program, is 3-7, 1-4. But the Blue Raiders finished 7-3 in their sophomore season and were receiving top-25 votes at the end of the year.
"They've played very competitive ballgames," Alexander said of the 2012 Blue Raiders. "They've lost an overtime game. They lost down at Faulkner 43-41; that's the only score we need to see to know what kind of team they have.
"They've had the turnover bug a little bit. They've thrown some interceptions and fumbles. If they could get that corrected in a ballgame, they can be awfully tough to handle."
Lindsey Wilson's offense revolves around sophomore quarterback Brandon Cresap, who has completed 206 of 364 passes for 2,348 yards and 17 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Junior receiver Matt Powers leads the Blue Raiders with 38 catches for 563 yards and five scores despite missing a pair of games.
"They're 2-1 [ratio] as far as throwing the football," Alexander said. "They run a lot of the quick stuff, screens. They give you a lot of different formations and different groups of people they put in there. We've had to work hard on that all week.
"Defensively, they're very aggressive. They play a three-down look, similar to what we've seen the past four or five weeks. Bring pressure, move their front and give you a variety of looks."
As the season ends, Cumberland is healthy with the exception of wide receiver Courtland Styles Jr., whose kneecap was dislocated while making a catch at the 1-yard line last week. Alexander said the injury won't require surgery.
"We have everyone else," Alexander said.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org