Unfamiliarity is the big question mark for Wilkes heading into today's season-opener when it travels to New York to face Morrisville State.
The Colonels will face the Mustangs for the first time this afternoon as the teams meet in the MAC vs. NJAC Challenge this afternoon.
Not being recognizable with the program could work in Wilkes' favor or against the team. The Colonels are very familiar with teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference though having played several of the teams in past seasons and all of the games have been tough on both sides of the ball. Morrisville State has only been in the NJAC for four previous seasons and that's hard to compare, but Wilkes coach Frank Sheptock is still expecting a physical game like every other team in the conference.
"You know you're going to get talented, skilled, athletic players. It's definitely a challenge from the physical standpoint," Sheptock said. "A lot of times you're getting Division II type players."
The Colonels have notoriously played tough games during Sheptock's era, which enters its 17th season and not just against NJAC teams. Even though the Colonels allowed 286 points last year, an average of 31.8 in their nine games, they showed they can score and be very physical on offense averaging 26.7 points per game.
If that type of play continues this afternoon, Wilkes will have its first season-opening win since 2010.
at Morrisville St. (0-0)
When: noon today at Drake Field, Morrisville, N.Y.
Last Meeting: This is the first meeting between the schools.
What to know: One of eight games this weekend in the MAC vs. NJAC Challenge.
About the Colonels: In its last game of 2011 Wilkes had 19 of 24 players starting as underclassmen on the team that finished 4-5 last season. It's been a long preseason and the team is still fairly young, but has a bye next week.
About the Mustangs: The Mustangs played as a junior college team and had success winning a pair of Region III championships. Like Wilkes, Morrisville returns several starters from a year ago. They are beginning their fifth season in the NJAC coming off a 1-9 overall record. While Wilkes won four games last season, the Mustangs have won a total of five games since joining the NJAC in 2008.
Notes: The Wilkes defense allowed a lot of points last season with opponents racking up 31.8 per game. Good news for Wilkes is that the Mustangs only scored an average of 18.9.
Wilkes will win if the team is well rested after staying in a hotel the night before the game. And if the Colonels can continue to score points like they did last year when they averaged 26.7 points per game. Morrisville allowed gave up an average of 31 a game and only averaged 18.9 on offense.
Morrisville St. will win if coaches getting their hands on the tape Wilkes' scrimmage against Hartwick – and not shared by Wilkes – pays dividends. And if the Colonels defense doesn't show much improvement from last season.