Cougars Off To Historic Start
DALLAS — The vibe around Misericordia football can apparently change quickly.
The team was fired up after Week 2’s dramatic one-point win that came down to a successful two-point conversion.
“I didn’t even see the play happen. I just heard everybody erupt because I couldn’t see,” defensive lineman Michael Conway said.
Week 3, a two-point victory over Wilkes, was a whole other reason to celebrate. For the first time ever, the Cougars had earned two wins in a season.
So Misericordia’s locker room had to be a wild scene when the team extended its unprecedented start into a three-game winning streak last week, right? Not quite.
“It was a lot less crazy than you’d expect,” Conway said. “I think after the Wilkes game we were more excited just because we got over that one-win hump.
“Now, we just got to keep rolling. … Last week was just, ‘on to the next game.’”
While the rest of the Middle Atlantic Conference might still be getting used to Misericordia at the top of the standings, Conway and the Cougars are taking it all in stride and trying to keep this hot start going. Misericordia (3-1, 2-0 MAC) can keep its league record spotless when it hosts Alvernia at 1 p.m. Saturday.
In just one month, Misericordia has done plenty to change its reputation and show it’s headed in the right direction.
After winning five games in the team’s first six years of existence, it’s already up to three this year. Only Delaware Valley and Misericordia remain unbeaten in MAC play.
That’s a huge leap from the team Conway joined once he graduated from Holy Redeemer. He was a high school senior a short drive from where the Cougars posted their third of five straight 1-9 seasons.
“It’s a whole different weight on us this year because we were expected to lose in the past couple years. Especially from people outside the program, they just thought we’d lose all the time,” Conway said. “Inside here, we expect to win now.”
It’s all due to improvements on both sides of the ball.
After being held to three field goals in a season-opening loss, the Cougars offense has opened up in narrow MAC victories over Widener (36-35) and Wilkes (47-45), plus last weekend’s big non-conference win over Castleton (52-33). Their current pace, 36 points per game, would obliterate their program record (24.4 ppg, 2013), and they’re 32 points away from outscoring four of their previous six seasons by this one’s midway point.
Playmakers are lining up on Misericordia’s offense now, starting with junior quarterback Brady Williams, who leads the MAC with 11.4 yards per attempt to go with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. Junior receiver Sam Gillison has burned secondaries to the tune of 525 yards and five touchdowns, both second in the MAC.
Toss in sophomore running back David Cromwell, with a MAC-best 98 rushing yards per game, and Misericordia’s offense is moving at a program-best 6.5 yards per play this season.
The defense has stepped up too, especially in high-leverage situations.
Misericorida stopped Widener short on all seven of the Pride’s third-down attempts.
In the fourth quarter against Wilkes, Conway recovered a fumble in Colonels territory, setting up the Cougars’ go-ahead drive. On Wilkes’ next offensive play, Nick Yeager intercepted a pass, and his 24-yard return set up another touchdown drive and a 40-31 lead.
Castleton, which trailed the Cougars by eight at halftime, moved the chains on its first play of the second half but never earned another first down.
“We’ve just been able to keep in the close games and not give up,” said Conway, who has 15 tackles and a sack at defensive tackle and end. “We came out, and we were down 7-0 (against Wilkes). Nobody gave up. Nobody batted an eye.”
There’s no sure sign of when Misericordia can be slowed down.
Its next two games are against first-year program Alvernia (1-3, 0-3 MAC) and winless Lebanon Valley (0-4, 0-2 MAC), which did take Wilkes to overtime.
After that, the Cougars play FDU-Florham (4-1, 2-1 MAC), a matchup that has produced some of Misericordia’s closest games in recent years. First-place Delaware Valley isn’t a 2018 opponent, and neither is Stevenson, another perennially tough matchup.
Not that Conway knows.
“We’ve been on a week-by-week basis. Our big thing is (going) 1-0 this week, no matter what happened last week, no matter who we play the next week,” Conway said. “I honestly don’t know who we play next week, I just know it’s Alvernia this week.”
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