Misericordia might be the most confident winless team in all of collegiate athletics right now.
And that would be for good reason.
Hungry for their first win in school history, the Cougars (0-3, 0-2 MAC) have put respectable offensive numbers against two MAC contenders in consecutive weeks. And now they are heading home to take on what may be a vulnerable Wilkes team at 1 p.m. today.
The Colonels (1-2, 0-2) are coming off their first shutout in back-to-back years to the same team in coach Frank Sheptock’s tenure when they were blanked by Widener. Sheptock’s team only picked up 165 total yards in last week’s loss and now is without starting quarterback Tyler Berntsen for the rest of the season after he was injured in the game. That leaves Wilkes with a signal caller who has never started collegiately whether it be sophomore Dan Van Mater or freshmen Taylor Young, Ryan Dailey or Marcellus Hayes.
“We’re going to use all the reps we can get in practice (to help) with what we should do,” Colonels coach Frank Sheptock said earlier in the week when asked about the starting quarterback situation. “Everybody is trying to position themselves. It could be a couple guys.”
While the Colonels have had problems staying healthy this season, as seven starters are out for the season and three more out for today’s contest, the Cougars are strong and hungry.
Misericordia enters with the leading rushing offense in the MAC, averaging a whopping 371.3 yards per game on the ground. Those stats include quarterback Jeff Puckett, whose 503 rushing yards and six rushing TDs are a league-high while running a no-huddle read option offense. With three defensive ends for Wilkes also sidelined, that gives linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs, the MAC’s leading tackler with 44, something to keep his hands full.
“When they’re putting up (371) rushing yards per game it catches your attention. Holy cow!” Sheptock said. “There’s a lot of things we’re very concerned with…I think they’re doing things that you do to win football games. They’re controlling the ball. They’re not turning it over and they’re running the ball. So when you have those beginning ingredients it’s a dangerous football team.
“They’re going to win at some point; they are…They’ve got my full attention. We’re very concerned. They’ve played a tough schedule early. They’re confident. They’re excited about the things that they’re seeing and (coach Mark Ross) is doing a great job and they’re believing.”
The bright spot for Wilkes heading into the game is that the second-year Cougars are allowing the most points (52.0), yards (545.7) and rushing yards (303.7) per game in the MAC. That means sophomore back Pat Inguilli, who has put up a team-high 192 yards on the ground this season — including a game-high 102 last week — will likely be relied upon this week for the Colonels.
Wilkes (1-2, 0-2 MAC) at Misericordia (0-3, 0-2 MAC)
When: 1 p.m. today at Mangelsdorf Field, Dallas
Last Week: The Colonels were shutout by Widener, 21-0, while the Cougars fell to Lycoming, 52-14.
Last meeting: Wilkes won the inaugural meeting between the teams last season, 45-13.
Wilkes player to watch: Senior linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs, who leads the MAC in tackles with 44, could add significantly to those totals this afternoon trying to slow down Misericordia’s run-heavy attack.
Misericordia players to watch: The offensive line consisting of Connor Duffy, John Ameen, Trevor Davis, Sam Johnson and Alex Reyes, whose average weight is 291 pounds, has been a big contribution to the run game and has only allowed three sacks all season.
Colonels’ team leaders: RB Pat Inguilli 192 yards, 1TD; QB Dan Van Mater 10 passing yards, Taylor Young 28 passing yards; WR David Claybrook 6 rec, 62 yards; LB Tate Moore-Jacobs 44 tackles; three players with 1.5 sacks; five players with one interception.
Cougars’ team leaders: RB Frank Santarsiero 195 yards. 1TD; QB Jeff Puckett 503 rushing yards, 6 TD, 148 passing yards, 1 TD; LB Ben Camacho 21 tackles, 1 int; NT Ben Muschlitz 2 sacks;
Wilkes will win if: Its offense can stay on the field long enough to rest the defense so that Misericordia’s high-octane offense can be minimized.
Misericordia will win if: The defensive unit can get big stops by containing Wilkes’ running game and rattling the quarterback who will be starting for the first time in college.
What to know: The teams will have eight common opponents this campaign. The only squad both have seen this season so far is Lycoming. While both lost to the Warriors, Wilkes scored four more points than the Cougars and allowed 34 to Misericordia’s 52 given up … A win today for the Colonels will also be historic, as it would be No. 300 in school history.