For the second week in a row, Ferrum is on the road. Opening conference play Saturday, the Panthers take on the Battling Bishops of North Carolina Wesleyan. In trying to evaluate this game, I will start with a short review of last years game.
The Bishops, in their 41- 14 win last year at Ferrum, had 2 running backs with over 100 yards rushing, and got 9 of their first downs on running plays. It was not their running game that was so devastating. In fact, Ferrum's running game was the stronger of the two. It was the Bishops passing game that led to their win. With a tie score of 21-21 at halftime, Ferrum was outscored 20-0 in the second half. Their quarterback was 18 of 26 for 311 yards, and one touchdown.
For the most part, their key players on offense are back. They are capable of scoring, and scoring quickly. Currently the Bishops have a record of 1-2. Having lost their opener to Hampden- Sydney, and their third game to Emory and Henry. Both of these losses to ODAC schools were on the road. In between they beat a Salisbury team that at the time was in the top 25. Currently, the NCW Quarterback has completed 61.5% of his passes, and has 7 passing touchdowns. Their running game is averaging 106.7 yards per game, and has accounted for three touchdowns. They can and will throw the ball, and will throw it often.
Defensively, NCW is allowing an average of 36 points per game. Points are mostly being piled up on the ground, and 8 rushing touchdowns have been allowed so far. They have also been susceptible against the pass, as they have allowed 763 passing yards and 6 passing touchdowns by opponents.
Comparatively speaking, Ferrum in its 3 games has gained 792 yards rushing, and scored 7 rushing touchdowns. This computes to a 264.0 yards per game average. This may be where the Panthers will be most effective offensively, but if you turn the passing game up a couple of notches, it will make for a more well rounded attack. Defending the pass will be the difference maker for Ferrum. If the Panthers can apply pressure to the quarterback, and cover the receivers tight, they should slow the passing attack. The Bishops will pass, and pass often. Disrupting this element of their game will be the key to a Panther win.
Keys to a Ferrum Victory-
This game will have serious ramifications on the conference championship. In order to come away with a victory, the Panthers must:
1. Defense must have many 3 and out's to stifle the Bishops offense.
2. CREATE TURNOVERS. THEN Capitalize on them.
3. Continue the offensive assault, but throw a few more times early. Let them know that you can "sling it" if needed.
4. Penalties and turnovers must be eliminated. Mistakes against a team the caliber of NCW will make for a long day.
5. Special teams must be solid with no mistakes. Run a kickoff or punt all the way back!
Kicking and punting team- They have an excellent return man in Devontae Atkins #7. He is ranked third in the nation, and had 1 TD this season. Averaging 39 yards per kickoff return.
6. Secondary must be ready for fast receivers who are effective as well. Disrupt their rhythm and get 2 interceptions. Along with this, the pass rush has to be strong. Constant pressure on their quarterback will be vital.
7. Do not get complacent, and do not give up. If you fall behind, remember what Emory and Henry did to this team. (Trailed 28-7 in the fourth quarter, and came back to win with :12 seconds left, 36-34. ) Play full out to the whistle, no matter what the score.
8. Time of possession will be important, but you must produce when you have the ball.
You must realize the importance of this game. This is a huge determinant of the conference championship. Play hard, and play to the whistle.
While I am hopeful for a Ferrum win, the home field advantage, and the weeks rest for NCW may prove too much.