BY DARREN REESE
There is no question that the inconsistency with his offense has been a point of frustration for Tusculum head coach Frankie DeBusk in 2012.
Over the past four games the Pioneers have scored 33, 6, 49 and 10 points.
"Truthfully, I have been a little concerned about us offensively from the very beginning (of the season)," DeBusk said. "We are just not in-sync."
"We aren't doing the things that we want to do, and expect to do and think we can do."
The Tusculum offense will look to get back on track this week with a road trip to defending South Atlantic Conference co-champion Lenoir-Rhyne. Kick-off is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Moretz Stadium.
Although several factors play into the inconsistent point production, DeBusk believes the wide receiver position continues to be one of the main areas of concern.
"We've used the, 'We're young, we're inexperienced', excuse as long as we can use it," the coach said. "We are now to the middle to late part of the season and the kids that hadn't played a lot have now played a lot."
"The receivers that we have are our receivers. We have got to find a way to get them over the hump. They have a great attitude, they have a great demeanor at practice, we are just dropping too many balls in games."
On the flip side, DeBusk believes that quarterback Bo Cordell is playing "as good as we could ask of him." The redshirt junior became the all-time leading passer in SAC history last week as he threw for 284 yards in a 20-10 loss to UNC Pembroke.
"Bo has been very steady, very consistent," DeBusk said. "His supporting cast has to start performing."
"Saturday we actually charted how many passes we dropped, and if those go into the stats as catches for Bo then he is completing 75-80 percent of his passes."
The Pioneers will try to get things going against a Lenoir-Rhyne team that leads the conference in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.
The Bears (3-2, 1-1 SAC) suffered a 47-23 loss to Carson-Newman back on September 15 but have allowed just 16 total points in wins over North Greenville and Brevard since.
Lenoir-Rhyne is led by 2011 SAC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Demetrius Green, and defensive back Michael Green, who has been the SAC Defensive Player of the Week the past two weeks.
"I think they are as sound and as solid a defense as we will play," DeBusk pointed out. "Their personnel is as good as we've seen the past few weeks.
"They're actually, scheme-wise defensively, very similar to what we do. But they have some great players on that side of the ball. They fly around and do a good job of getting to the football."
Offensively, the Bears are the total opposite from Tusculum in that they prefer to run the football and control time of possession. They are currently fourth in the nation in rushing offense with 331.8 yards per game.
Isaiah Whitaker is the team's leading rusher with just 56.2 yards per game, but L-R has five players who average 42 ypg or more.
Lenoir-Rhyne has won eight consecutive games at home, while Tusculum has dropped nine straight on the road.
"We have to figure out a way to get a win on the road," DeBusk noted. "We need some good things to happen to us on the road. "
"We've been in a lot of those games, but for one reason or another - whether we started slow and got into it late, or didn't play as well as we needed to on both sides - we haven't had the success that we would like."
Last year's game against L-R marked one of the few bright spots on the schedule for Tusculum as they handed the Bears their lone SAC loss of the 2011 season in a 26-25 decision at Pioneer Field.
That loss ultimately went a long way toward keeping Lenoir-Rhyne out of the NCAA Division II playoffs.