Something has got to give this afternoon at Mangelsdorf Field.
It’s the immovable object against the unstoppable force.
Lebanon Valley enters today’s 1 p.m. game against Misericordia with the top-ranked rush defense in the MAC — and the 13th-best defense against the run in the whole country — allowing just 87.0 yards per game.
Misericordia, meanwhile has the ninth-best rushing offense in the nation and the best running game in the MAC, posting an average of 293.0 yards per game.
The Cougars are led by quarterback Jeff Puckett, who is still putting up astonishing rushing numbers with 843 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns through six games this season. The sophomore’s numbers lead the MAC and are No. 20 in the nation. Puckett’s 301 yards on the ground against Gettysburg in Week 1 is the third-highest nationwide rushing total in one game this season.
After Puckett piled up 159 yards on the ground in Week 2 against Delaware Valley, he was held to just 106 in the next two games combined before getting back on track in Week 5 against King’s and last week versus Widener. With a big game against the Flying Dutchmen, Puckett could become the first Misericordia player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Despite being winless, the Cougars have played well all season and the first victory in school history seems to be close. They nearly pulled off wins over Wilkes and King’s before turning a 24-point, second-half deficit against defending MAC champion Widener into a game with 14 straight points, eventually losing 38-20.
But the potent Misericordia offense could struggle this afternoon. LebVal is coming off a bye week, but before that, it put on a defensive clinic in a win over 24th-ranked Lycoming. In the victory, the Dutchmen sacked Lycoming QB Tyler Jenny 10 times and registered three turnovers in a 14-7 victory.
Lebanon Valley (5-1, 4-1 MAC) at Misericordia (0-6, 0-5 MAC)
When: 1 p.m. today at Mangelsdorf Field, Dallas Twp.
Last Week: Misericordia dropped a 34-20 decision to Widener, while the Flying Dutchmen are coming off a bye week. Their last time out, they beat Lycoming, 14-7.
Last meeting: In the only time the teams have met, LebVal won 47-7 last year.
Misericordia player to watch: Backup quarterback Ryan Kurtz has spelled starter Jeff Puckett brilliantly this season when he’s needed a break. Kurtz has played in all six games rushing for 214 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and has two touchdowns helping the offense not miss a beat when he’s in the game.
Lebanon Valley player to watch: Linebacker Frank Gaffney leads the country with 13 sacks and is second in tackles for a loss with 17 for 104 yards. He also has a team-leading 51 tackles.
Cougars’ team leaders: RB Frank Santarsiero 304 yards, 1 TD; QB Jeff Puckett 842 rushing yards (leads MAC), 10 TD (leads MAC), 486 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 interceptions; WR Juwan Petties-Jackson 21 receptions, 292 yards, 2 TD; LB Rob Hart 42 tackles; LB Ben Camacho 2 interceptions; NT Ben Muschlitz, NT Chris Grevas 2 sacks.
Flying Dutchmen team leaders: RB Austin Hartman 474 yards, 6 TD; QB Brian Murphy 1,128 yards, 10TD, 3int; WR Joey Miller 14 receptions, 321 yards, 2TD; LB Frank Gaffney 13 sacks (leads NCAA), 51 tackles; DB Andrew Burkholder, DB Bryan Kasper 2 interceptions.
Misericordia will win if…The offense can break through the stiff Lebanon Valley defense and continue to pick up big chunks of yardage on the ground.
Lebanon Valley will win if…The team doesn’t have a letdown after notching a huge victory over 25th-ranked Lycoming its last time out.
What to know: As he’s approaching a milestone, Lebanon Valley coach Jim Monos is looking for career win No. 99 this afternoon.