The pause was brief, but long enough to know Mike Clark had already put some thought into his answer before the question was even asked Wednesday.
There are no out-of-town scoreboards at any of the football fields in the Middle Atlantic Conference the Lycoming head football coach could take a quick glance at during the Warriors' regular-season finale today against Misericordia. So does he want someone to provide him with updates on the Widener/Delaware Valley game, the game that holds part of the Warriors' postseason fate in its outcome?
"Uh ... I don't know. A couple years ago against Lebanon Valley I didn't want updates, but Lebanon Valley was a little more established at that point than Misericordia is and I didn't want it to be a distraction," Clark said. "I would probably prefer to not know and to focus on what could be this year's last game, in fairness to our kids. But if that score is anywhere close to where we'd like it to be, I wouldn't mind knowing."
Three weeks ago Lycoming lost control over the fate of its season with a last-second loss to Widener, but what the Warriors didn't lose was a shot at the postseason. A win today against first-year program Misericordia coupled with a Delaware Valley win over Widener by 15 or fewer points would give Lycoming a share of the MAC title with both the Aggies and the Pride, and more importantly, the MAC's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament which begins next Saturday.
A Widener win gives the Pride the outright MAC title and the automatic berth which would leave Lycoming hoping for an at-large berth. A Delaware Valley win by 16 points or more would give Delaware Valley a share of its fifth consecutive conference title and the automatic berth and would likely leave Lycoming on the outside looking in at the NCAA playoffs.
Delaware Valley coach Jim Clements understands the Aggies' chances at gaining the at-large berth are slim facing the country's No. 1 scoring offense.
"(Widener) is the No. 1 offensive team in the country and we're laying 16 points on the road. Are you kidding me," Clements said to the Delaware County Times earlier this week.
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to be difficult not to think about the other game," Lycoming running back Parker Showers said. "We can just take of what we can do. We know what we have to do and then it'd be nice if we could hear a good update around the fourth quarter."
The coaching staff has addressed the scenarios with the team this week on what needs to happen to make the Warriors' first postseason appearance since 2008. But those scenarios weren't discussed without emphasis that without a win from Lycoming this afternoon, none of the potential outcomes that result in a playoff game are possible.
"I think if you don't talk about it then you're only kidding yourself," Lycoming defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Steve Wiser said.
But there's even more on the line than just a playoff spot. A win would give the Warriors eight in each of the past two seasons. They haven't had 16 wins in a two-year span since 1999 and 2000. Today will also provide an opportunity for Lycoming to make its final adjustments and improvement before a potential playoff game.
And if things go well against a Misericordia team which has given up more than 50 points per game while scoring just six, it'll be an opportunity for Clark to play his backups. Misericordia has held just one team under 40 points this year, and that was a Stevenson team which scored just seven points against Lycoming's staunch defense a week ago.
"There's so much going on. We have to play well and we have to win. We're also talking about continuing to play well and improve this week just in case there is another week," Clark said. "Someone said, and this is certainly not meant to be negative, but we will certainly play someone better than Misericordia next week if we get in the playoffs. That's just a fact. So we're trying our best to find a way to improve."
Lycoming is playing this week without four starters, including Kody Flail and Ryan Fenningham who have missed the last two weeks after suffering knee injuries against Widener. Right guard Mike Chaput will also be out after aggravating a knee injury last week, and middle linebacker Kabongo Bukasa will be out after suffering a groin injury on a goal-line tackle a week ago. Bukasa and Chaput are out to help their case to try and make it back to the field should there be a playoff game to play next week.
But as much as contingency plans have been put into place and as much as this week is a preparation for a potential 11th game, it doesn't mean the focus has wavered for a team that has gone 7-1 since a humbling opening-day loss at home to Brockport State.
"We all know what's at stake," linebacker Tyler Denike said. "We have to get this one first before anything else happens. It's really all that matters. If we lose, then there's no shot of getting anything. It's not the greatest opponent but we have to treat it like it is."
Clark said he's hoping to help his players win their eighth game of the season and then go into the locker room and hear an advantageous score from Widener. It's all he can do.
"We've put ourselves in a situation where I would argue we're one of the five or six best teams in the East. There aren't 32 teams in America that are better than us. There aren't," Clark said. "And whether or not we get a chance to prove that is really out of our hands."