A year ago at this time, the Wilkes secondary was the worst in the MAC.
Teams were passing all over the Colonels as they finished last in the conference, allowing 235.6 yards per game through the air and letting opponents pass for a MAC-high 63.6 completion percentage. The Wilkes defense gave up an astonishing 31.3 points per game in 2012, which was third-most in the MAC.
Youth and injuries were the main reasons for those numbers.
But the defensive backs learned from that season and as they enter the final two weeks of the 2013 regular season, Wilkes has only given up 10 passing touchdowns, the third-lowest in the conference. Teams are still throwing on the unit, but now plays are being made and the team is only allowing 21.9 points per game this season.
There was possibly no bigger play made this season then when Omar Richardson, who is a converted tailback and never played defense in high school, intercepted a pass last week against FDU-Florham and took it 78 yards for a score to clinch the team’s second straight victory. It was the junior’s second pick this season and the ninth for the team, which is third in the MAC. Junior J.T. Keer leads the secondary with 55 tackles, while fellow juniors Matt Briskie and Dylan Mohring have combined for 45 tackles and two interceptions.
“They sort of leaned on each other a little bit because they’ve all been developing together,” said Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock, whose team will close out its home slate this afternoon against Delaware Valley at 1 p.m. “Omar and Briskie and J.T. Keer and Dillon, they’ve all sort of come up together. I think they take a lot of pride that the group is developing overall because they’ve been together so long.”
The Aggies (5-3 overall, 4-3 MAC), the conference’s perennial power having won four of the last five MAC titles, have lost two games in a row for just the fifth time in the last 11 seasons. Both setbacks were in overtime at home, to King’s and Lebanon Valley. So if there’s a time to get DelVal when its down, it’s right now. But the Aggies haven’t lost three in a row since the first three games of the 2007 season — a span of 73 games.
“I’m sort of intrigued about what type of personality I’m going to see DelVal come in here with,” Sheptock said. “(The Aggies mentality could be) Let’s rally around, we’ve got things to prove or they’re down in the dumps a little bit because two back-to-back overtime losses at home when you have leads in the fourth quarter. That definitely takes a toll on a team’s mentality.”
Delaware Valley (5-3 overall, 4-3 MAC)
at Wilkes (4-4, 3-4 MAC)
When: 1 p.m. today at Schmidt Stadium, Edwardsville
Last Week: Delaware Valley fell to Lebanon Valley 34-31 in overtime, while Wilkes knocked off FDU-Florham 38-16.
Last meeting: In 2012, the Aggies won 23-7.
Wilkes player to watch: Senior linebacker Tate Moore-Jacobs, who leads the MAC in tackles with 91, will wrap up his home career this afternoon. He has played in every game with the Colonels since starting as a freshman. In 38 career games, he’s had double-digit tackles 29 times.
DelVal player to watch: Running back Kyle Schuberth needs just 112 yards rushing to become just the second back in school history to reach 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.
Colonels’ team leaders: RB Pat Inguilli 648 yards, 4 TDs; QB Taylor Young 752 passing yards, 6 TDs, 8 interceptions; WR David Claybrook 27 receptions, 360 yards, 2 TDs; LB Tate Moore-Jacobs 91 tackles (leads MAC); four players with 2 sacks; DB Omar Richardson 2 interceptions.
Aggies’ team leaders: RB Kyle Schuberth 888 yards, 11 TDs; QB Aaron Wilmer 1,407 yards, 11 TDs, 6 interceptions; WR Rasheed Bailey 37 receptions, 692 yards, 5 TDs; DB Danne Wynne 79 tackles; DE Matt Hoch 3 sacks; DB Chris Vega 3 interceptions.
Wilkes will win if…the defense can continue to play as well as it has the last two weeks only giving up 33 total points as opposed to allowing 30 or more in three other games this season. The DelVal offense is second in the MAC with 30.5 points per game so there’s extra emphasis on the unit to perform.
Delaware Valley will win if…Quarterback Aaron Wilmer, who is the reigning MAC co-offensive Player of the Week after a two-week hiatus with an injury, returns to that form and can outperform a much-improved Colonels secondary.
What to know: Delaware Valley is riding a five-game winning streak against the Colonels, with Wikes’ last win in the series coming in 2007…Wilkes is celebrating Senior Day with 20 players being honored.