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CU, Faulkner roar into MSC West race
Oct 13, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
Cumberland and Faulkner go into a corner in the Mid-South Conference West Division race looking for early momentum down the backstretch as the teams hit division play hot and heavy this week.
The No. 16 Bulldogs are 1-0 in the division [5-1 overall] while Faulkner, with an inside lane by way of the draw of the schedule, is 2-1 in the division and 4-2 overall with losses coming to No. 2 Georgetown and No. 9 Cumberlands, which handed CU its lone loss.
"Our schedule up until now, being 5-1 and being ranked 16th, has at least put us in position to make our conference games mean something as far as an opportunity to go to the playoffs," said Cumberland coach Dewayne Alexander, whose Bulldogs will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Montgomery, Ala. "But right now that seems a million miles away. There are five big weeks of football and you really truly have to take these one week at a time. You look at every team in our league over the last three or four years that has won our conference has had a loss. You have to strap it on every week."
This week, the Bulldogs will have to strap it on to deal with Faulkner's spread offense with four-wide and shotgun on every snap.
"They've been one of the top offensive football teams in the NAIA the last couple of years,"Alexander said. "[Quarterback Josh] Hollingsworth, the transfer from Furman, he was the NAIA Player of the Year last year. Outstanding player. Makes good decisions. He's smart. He runs the offense extremely well. He has a talented group of receivers and backs to get the ball to. They're running the ball more this year, not just throwing it. And he's crafty enough to make plays with his feet.
"Defensively, they're much improved. The biggest improvement I've seen in the Faulkner team is on the defensive side of the ball. They're much more athletic. The defensive front is very impressive. Linebackers run well. Their secondary guys come up and tackle well.
"I'm one of the [NAIA] raters. I've been voting them as a top-25 team after seeing them on film all year."
After playing at historic Cramton Bowl, Faulkner is playing on campus at John Mark Stallings Field, named for the son of former Alabama coach Gene Stallings.
"Looking at it on film, it looks outstanding," Coach Dewayne Alexander said of the Eagles' new facility which features Field Turf.
On the injury front, Cumberland will get center Dalton Burge and right tackle Tucker Cathey back after two weeks on the sideline.
"It just gives us some depth there," Alexander said. "Because of the injuries, we were running thin up there the last couple of weeks."
Defensive lineman Devin Guthrie missed last week with a calf strain but will be back.
Wide receiver Daniel Dayton, who had to be taken off of Nokes-Lasater Field during the second half of last Saturday's game with Union, sustained a concussion and a neck injury and won't play this week.
"The good thing is his arms, legs, knees and toes are good," Alexander said of the fifth-year senior wideout who was injured while blocking on a sweep. "He's got good movement. Once he goes through the concussion protocol, he's done well with that, hopefully, it looks like we'll have a chance to have him back next week."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org