EDWARDSVILLE - Go ahead and double-check the stats. It doesn't seem plausible, but it's definitely true.
A Lycoming defense missing two of its four starters in the secondary held Wilkes to just two pass completions on Saturday. That's right, two. Not two in a quarter or two in a half. Just two. Total.
It was a complete defensive effort from a Warriors defensive unit which was torched to the tune of 395 passing yards a week ago against Widener, including two late touchdown drives that cost Lycoming a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead. But Saturday, the coverage was brilliant. The pressure up front from the front four was even better.
It all led to the Warriors' best defensive performance of the season.
"We go out there and have fun," Lycoming cornerback Ryan Mihoci said. "This is a tight team, and in the secondary you're kind of on an island out there, so you have to have some confidence. We all have it."
Lycoming's defense didn't look much different than it has for much of the year other than playing without sophomore corner Kody Flail. Flail injured his knee in last week's loss to Widener and he was scheduled to have an MRI last week, but the results were not known as of late last week.
The Warriors have already played much of the season without starting safety Ryan Fenningham who initially hurt his left knee against Delaware Valley in Week 2 and reinjured it last week against Widener, and Caleb Shertzer has proven to be more than capable playing in Fenningham's stead.
Yesterday, the group of Mihoci, Shertzer, corner Matt Talerico and safety Tanner Troutman played like a group that has formulated a bond of communication, and a bond of understanding of the scheme. The coverage on the receivers was tight. The only two catches went for 18 and 9 yards, respectively.
And Wilkes tight ends Drew Devitt and Dan Curry who were the first and third leading receivers going into Saturday's game, never caught a pass.
"We feel pretty confident with the depth of our secondary," Mihoci said. "Of course Fenn and Flail are great players and it was a big blow to lose those guys last week, but we really stepped up to the plate and took on the challenge."
Often Colonels quarterback Tyler Berntsen dropped back and found nowhere to throw the football. He wasn't able to just sit there, though, and wait for someone to break open. He was constantly on the move thanks to the pressure of a Lycoming defensive front which never let Berntsen get comfortable.
It truly was a complete defensive effort to all but eliminate Wilkes' offense Saturday. Not only did the Warriors allow just the 27 passing yards, but it held a rushing offense averaging 260 yards per game to just 131 yards at 3.1 yards per carry.
The Warriors forced a run-first team to throw and Wilkes couldn't find any positives in their passing game. They didn't just make the Colonels one dimensional offensively, they left Wilkes without a dimension.
The Warriors recorded five sacks, including two by defensive tackle Dwight Hentz. They also had 11 tackles for loss.
"Last year we had the number three defense in the country, so we had that confidence and we have those expectations, too," Mihoci said. "We don't care what they're averaging. We have confidence in our D-line, linebackers and secondary to get in the backfield and shut their run game down."
"So much of throwing the football is a timing issue. That's really what it comes down to," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "When you can get back and get the ball thrown, it's great. But when guys are covered or there's pressure and you have to readjust, then those routes have to change and you have to adjust to get open. If you can't do that, it makes it tough to throw."
Tough to throw, tough to run. It doesn't leave many options left for Lycoming's opponents.