CU seeks to open homestand with upset under the lamps

Andy Reed • The Lebanon Democrat

Cumberland quarterback Joseph Rushin (4) calls signals at the line of scrimmage two weeks ago with left guard Jake Mathis (69) and tight end Damion Billingsley (87) lined up in an unbalanced formation with left tackle Wyatt Page shifted over to the right side.

After taking it on the chin in a 48-6 loss at No. 9 Lindsey Wilson last Saturday, the travel factor may be the only thing easier for Cumberland this week as the Phoenix begin a three-game homestand with No. 11 University of the Cumberlands coming to Nokes-Lasater Field for a 6 p.m. kickoff under the lights today.

Like Lindsey, Cumberlands is undefeated through five games. The Patriots feature the reigning Bluegrass Division Offensive Player of the Week in quarterback Josiah Robbins and Defensive Player of the Week in linebacker Tyler Pendleton.

While Robbins has passed for 853 yards and eight touchdowns on 61-of-96 with five interceptions, his rushing may be more impressive with a team-high 305 yards and two scores on 36 carries. Running back Martize Smith is the other runner with 297 yards and four scores on 41 attempts.

"They are a run-heavy team," Cumberland coach Tim Mathis said of the Patriots. "They run option out of the shotgun."

Cumberlands' option is different from Cumberland's triple option, Mathis said, noting the Patriots are more of a double option.

"It's not a true triple option type," Mathis said. "It's a quarterback/running back-type option game. They do throw it a little bit but they want to run the football.

"They try to get you in situations where they spread you out and get the numbers where they can run the ball where they want it."

Mathis said Cumberlands' defense is similar to Lindsey Wilson's. But that might not mean that much since the Blue Raiders came out in a different defense. That's not that unusual for the Phoenix to face since their ground-based attack isn't the typical spread most college teams run today. Mathis said the different defense wasn't necessarily the main issue for CU last week.

"We did enough self-shooting," Mathis said. "If we did a better job punching it in a couple of times in the first half, it would have been a different football game."

Mathis pointed out a sequence late in the first half when, with Lindsey Wilson leading 14-0, Cumberland drove to a fourth-down and goal. But the Phoenix were stopped inside the 1-yard line. The Blue Raiders went 99 yards in the other direction for a touchdown for a three-score lead going into halftime.

"We moved the ball on them a lot, but we just didn't finish," Mathis said. "It kind of broke our backs."

Cumberland is looking to break a two-game losing streak after a 3-0 start. The Phoenix are 1-1 in the Bluegrass Division.

"Hopefully, we'll have a huge crowd," Mathis said. "We need a huge crowd to help pull out the win against Cumberlands."

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