A new MAC rivalry is ready to get started this afternoon when first-year program Misericordia travels 12 miles from its Dallas campus to Wilkes-Barre Township to face King's.
And it couldn't be a more fitting time for the two teams to begin things than this week because both are in similar situations.
Both are young building/rebuilding squads with each looking to break into the win column for the first time during the new season (both are 0-3 overall, 0-2 in the MAC) when they matchup this afternoon at 1 at McCarthy Stadium.
"As I look at them on film, they've had some growing pains just like we've had. But that's the nature of the beast," Cougars coach Mark Ross said. "It should be a competitive game and a better gauge to see where our group is at."
Even though it's a first-year program, Ross has been adamant all season that he expects to win every time his team steps on the field no matter who they're pitted against. So far, the Cougars have been outscored 184-7 in three contests. But they have played very good teams that have combined for an 8-1 record, which could turn into a victory this weekend.
"We know when they established football they looked where we are in this rebuilding phase and from what we're hearing is that they're looking at us as this is they game they know they have the greatest shot to get their first win," King's coach Jeff Knarr said. "So we know and fully expect to get everything they have and their best effort."
The Monarchs have had more success in terms of being competitive in games this season. They lost by four points in the opening week and jumped out to an early lead on nationally-ranked Widener in Week 2. The King's offense has been sluggish at times this season, averaging just 243.3 yards per game. When they've moved the ball well, it's been because tailback Kyle McGrath has made the most of his chances.
In Week 1, the sophomore had his first career 100-yard rushing game. He scored his first career touchdown in Week 2 that gave King's a short-lived on Widener. Then last week against FDU-Florham, he rushed for 114 yards as the offense looked strong in a 14-point second half. Knarr hopes to get the running game going and then use that to open up the pass game.
Ross' strategy today, like every week, will be to stop the run.
"We always go in to try to stop the run game," Ross said. "If they have the ability to run the ball, they will give you a headache."
On offense, Ross would like to see his team become more of a finisher. Misericordia has held the ball longer than its opponents, with nearly a six-minute time of possession advantage. But the team is just 18 percent (8-for-45) on third downs.
Knarr said the key for his defense in stopping the Cougars offensively is in the trenches where Misericordia has an average weight of 268 pounds on the offensive line.
"They're one of the biggest teams we're going to see this year probably," Knarr said.
1 p.m. today
at McCarthy Stadium
When: 1 p.m. today at McCarthy Stadium, Wilkes-Barre Twp.
Last Meeting: This is the first meeting.
Last week: King's fell to FDU-Florham 30-14 and the Cougars lost to Widener 67-0.
What to know: King's will be celebrating homecoming this weekend and the 2002 MAC championship and Sweet 16 team will be recognized. Steven Wilson, Rubin Doster and Chris Keene, who were all All-Americans that played on the 2002 team, will be honorary captains for this afternoon's contest.
About the Cougars: Their offensive line averages 268 pounds helping the team average 99 yards rushing per game led by junior tailback Cody Lamoreaux, who leads the team with 174 yards on 40 carries.
About the Monarchs: Kyle McGrath has been a key component for the team at tailback rushing for 249 yards so far this season with one touchdown. His two 100-yard games are the first in his career.
Notes: When King's began play in football in 1993 it picked up win No. 1 on week seven. The Cougars are looking to break into the win column today in Week 4.
Misericordia will win if it slows down the Monarchs' running game and can have success passing like past opponents of King's has done.
King's will win if it can run the ball with success and feed off the energy created by the crowd on homecoming weekend.
Up Next: King's travels to Lycoming, while the Cougars head home to face second-year team Stevenson.