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Dawgs ready to debut on Nokes-Lasater Field
Sep 08, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
After a summer of overtime work in getting a newly-acquired stadium ready and preparing a team, Cumberland is ready to show Nokes-Lasater Field to Bulldog Nation.
"There's been a lot of work by a lot of people from our entire university," Cumberland coach Dewayne Alexander said of transferring the longtime home of the Lebanon High Blue Devils into a college venue. "Our staff, even some of our players, a lot of different people in the community, the city of Lebanon, all of our administrative people. There hasn't been anybody that hasn't pitched in and lend a hand to get this place ready in basically a 2 1/2-month period to play a college football game."
And Cumberland is guaranteed to win Saturday's 1:30 p.m. game. It's just a matter of whether it will be No. 22 Cumberland University or No. 19 University of the Cumberlands, which has been a thorn in the Bulldogs' side each of the last two years, knocking CU out of a trip to the NAIA playoffs with final-week wins.
"University of the Cumberlands has been a thorn in a lot of teams' sides," Alexander said in his new office. "They've been the conference champions. They've won the East Division three years in a row. They won the West Division in the one year they were over on this side."
The teams are in opposite divisions this year. The Patriots opened 2012 with a 21-10 win over Belhaven last Saturday while the Bulldogs beat Kansas Wesleyan 31-10 in the Blue River Bowl in Dyersburg.
"They're the one team in the conference since I've been the head coach here [since 2006] that we've come on the short end of the scoreboard every time we've played them," said Alexander, whose Bulldogs last beat the Patriots in 2002 when Herschel Moore sat in the coach's chair. "We've had some close games with them, some not-so-close games with them. We've played them late in the year, early in the year.
"Really at the end of the day, it's 2012. It's a different season. They have a good, solid team. We feel we have a good, solid team."
Cumberlands runs an option offense with a different twist. The Patriots will throw the football.
"A lot of triple-option teams throw only sparingly," Alexander said. "University of the Cumberlands is not afraid to throw, and throw deep. It puts a lot of pressure on you when you support the run with your secondary to run guys by you and throw deep balls. In 2010, they threw for over 300 yards on us."
Patriots quarterback Jay Bright received a medical redshirt and is playing as a sixth-year senior, not unlike former Bulldog signal caller Curt Bureau a few years ago. Wide receiver Willie Gibson and fullback Terrance Cobb are other key offensive players.
The Patriots' defense figures to be outsized by the Bulldogs up front.
"They're an undersized defense," Alexander said. "They don't play like a lot of teams do with these huge defensive linemen. They play with smaller guys. They like to bring pressure from a lot of different areas. They like to move and slant a lot, bring linebackers. They play with three down linemen, everyone else is standing up. They have a couple of guys who really move around quite a bit and you have to really identify where they're going to be.
"They try to get you in some down-and-distance situations and bring a lot of pressure."
A key defender for the Patriots is free safety Brendan Kelly, who also returns punts.
"When you're playing an eight-man front, you have to have a really good free safety, and he's outstanding," Alexander said. "Their defense is built on speed and trying to run through gaps. We'll have to play sound fundamentally."
The Bulldogs are healthy through the first game though they had cramping issues in the heat and humidity of Dyersburg last week after having a relatively cool fall camp through much of August.
"We played in one of the most humid games I can ever remember being in," Alexander said. "We had some guys cramp up. Other than that, we didn't suffer any injuries."
Alexander said he's hoping tight end Ryan Slack can be back this week after suffering a concussion during camp.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com