Tyler Denike described an adjustment as simple as counting from one to five. But it still took time.
The Lycoming defense hadn't really prepared for dealing with Lebanon Valley backup quarterback Brian Murphy, so it took a few snaps of seeing the speedster to get the feel of how to slow him down.
The adjustment for Denike and the Warriors' defense was about changing their lanes for the defensive line. Previously, everything had been geared toward the middle of Lebanon Valley's offensive line to stop a running game which had been the best in the Middle Atlantic Conference through two weeks.
Not that the initial gameplan was thrown out the window when Lebanon Valley starting quarterback Leo Kyte went down, it's just that things were different when he rolled an ankle on the Flying Dutchmen's third play of the day. Murphy is a runner, the type of quarterback you'd expect to see at the helm of a spread, read option attack. And he can be absolutely deadly with his legs.
He could just as easily run away from the pass rush of a stout Lycoming defensive line as he could burn that same rush with the pass. So the adjustment was easy: focus more on containing the sophomore in the pocket.
"He knew where he couldn't run outside and it looked like he got little uneasy because he wanted to run," said Denike, who tied his career high with five tackles Saturday. "(Defensive end Nate Oropollo) did a really good job setting the edge, and so did (defensive end Braden) Zeiner, and it really help us linebackers out."
Murphy led the Dutchmen offense for four drives spanning the first and second quarters, the second of which produced a 35-yard field goal from Sean Fakete to give the Dutchmen a 3-0 lead with 1:05 to go in the first quarter.
After taking over for Kyte on the Dutchmen's first possession, Murphy led the offense 26 yards, picking up a pair of first downs, before having to punt. The second possession saw Murphy scramble for 22 yards on one play, complete an 11-yard pass on another, and picking up five yards on a quarterback draw to set up Fakete's field goal.
"We've got packages for both (quarterbacks)," Lebanon Valley head coach Jim Monos said. "Leo's feet aren't like Brian's feet, so we're running more and throwing on the run with Murphy."
The second quarter was a different result, though. The Warriors looked for more comfortable in their adjustments. The Warriors forced a fumble on a bubble screen which Denike recovered and set up the Lycoming offense for a Parker Showers touchdown run.
Oropollo chased down Murphy as he scrambled on the Dutchmen's next possession forcing a fumble which went out of bounds. The Warriors forced a three-and-out on that possession as well. And it was after that possession that Monos went back to Kyte, who stood on the sideline the whole time Murphy was in the game while trying to recover from the ankle injury.
When Kyte returned, he provided a completely different spark to the Lebanon Valley offense than the one Murphy provided. Kyte was deadly with his right arm, going 4 for 4 on his first drive back, finishing it with a 9-yard touchdown pass to cut Lycoming's lead to 14-10. But it was as close as the Dutchmen got all day.
The Warriors' defense allowed just one play of 15 yards or more once Kyte returned, and it was a fourth-quarter pass on fourth down that went for 44 yards and kept the Dutchmen's hopes at a win in tact. Kyte completed his first five passes for 55 yards Saturday, but following that touchdown drive in the second quarter, he went just 9 of 21 for 114 yards and an interception.
"I think it shows you how talented we are," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said of the defensive performance. "We're not as experienced as we may like to be, but if guys go in there and do as they're coached and read their keys, then you have a chance to be successful and then you gain the experience."
Here's a closer look at Lycoming's 21-13 win over Lebanon Valley:
Lycoming quarterback Tyler Jenny hasn't had much of an opportunity to throw the ball downfield in his first three starts for the Warriors, but when he finally got the chance to do it Saturday, he took advantage of the opportunity. Given all kinds of time to throw by the offensive line, he threw a brilliant ball to Jarrin Campman in stride for a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter.
"We thought all week if we get the time to thrown, Jarrin's a really good receiver and there's a pretty good shot we're going to get this," Jenny said. "The line did a really great job of creating a pocket like they're supposed to and I was able to step up and put it right on him."
This is probably a no-brainer, but it comes with a caveat. Craig Needhammer will get credit for the 61-yard touchdown run he had in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the Warriors' win, but at least some of it has to go to the left side of the offensive line and receiver John Sibel. Needhammer got the seam over the left side of the line they Warriors thought they could get at some point to break a big run, and as Needhammer got into the second level, Sibel made his second big block of the day, taking the safety out of the play, and springing Needhammer for the longest run of his career.
Joey Miller was covered. Like, with a blanket, a comforter, a sleeping bag and a quilt, covered. When Kyte threw a second-quarter fade pass to Miller, he had Lycoming cornerback Kody Flail draped all over him, to the point where Flail knocked the pass into the air as it got to Hall. But as Hall fell to the ground, he somehow corralled the ball into his arms for a 9-yard touchdown pass that cut Lycoming's lead to 14-10. It was as close as the Flying Dutchmen would get to leading the game, but it was a highlight-reel kind of catch.
The Lycoming defense has been steadily providing fodder for this award weekly, but this week's best hit has been unlike the last couple. Tanner Troutman and Cody Butler have laid some devastating hits over the middle in the first two weeks, but Matt Talerico's hit to tackle Darryl Sweeper on a third-quarter reverse was as impressive, just maybe not as lethal. The caught the Warrior defense in overpursuit on what looked like a sweep to the right, but Sweeper got a pitch from the running back, reversing the play to the left. When he got to the perimeter, the only people there were a Lebanon Valley receiver and Talerico. The receiver tried to force Talerico to the outside so Sweeper could get inside where there was 20 yards of running room. But Talerico, a senior out of Riverside, worked around the block and dove to clip Sweeper's left leg, dropping the ball-carrier in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. It was as impressive a defensive play as there was all day.
One guess: Who leads the Warriors in receptions this year? If you guessed John Sibel, you're a genius. Sibel saw a lot of playing time as a freshman a year ago and has turned the experience into a stellar sophomore year thus far. He led Lycoming on Saturday with five catches for 40 yards. Those five catches and 40 yards alone weren't enough for Sibel to take this honor, he did a superb job blocking something he said earlier in the week he loves to do and takes pride in including making the block which was able to spring Needhammer for the clinching touchdown run.
I hate copouts of selecting two deserving players when it comes to selecting MVPs, or players of the year or any other award of significance. So in turn, I now hate myself. But maybe in no other game since I began covering Lycoming football has it been more deserving to heap that praise on to the entire Warrior defensive unit than after this week. They held a Lebanon Valley offense that had scored 30 and 47 points to just 13. They held the best rushing offense in the MAC to just 90 yards on 30 attempts and they forced a pair of turnovers. Not too shabby.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVP
Lycoming running back Parker Showers was named the MAC's Special Teams Player of the Week after picking up 52 return yards to set the Lycoming school record for kickoff return yards, breaking Ricky Lanetti's nearly 10-year old mark. As impressive an accomplishment as it is, Showers is No. 2 on this list this week. Zack Czap continues to prove why he's the best punter in the MAC week in and week out. Czap is fourth in the MAC in punting average (34.1 yards per punt), but seven of his 17 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line this year, including three of his five on Saturday. He's had punts downed the 4 and 1-yard lines this weekend to go along with the punts downed at the 2-, 1-, and 8-yard lines earlier this year. He has just one touchback.
STAT OF THE DAY
Lycoming's defense allowed just three plays of 15 yards or more during Saturday's win. For Clark, it's still too many, especially the 44-yard pass on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. But it was significant improvement for the Warriors. In a season opening-loss to Brockport, the Warriors gave up 11 plays of 15 yards or more. In a Week 2 win over Delaware Valley, the defense surrendered 11 more. Of the 25 plays of 15 yards or more the defense has allowed this year, 18 have been on passing plays, and seven have been on running plays.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"He's been great since the start. He's the most calm and collected kid I've ever met. He comes in the huddle and it's like no big deal. It's like he belongs, which he does. He's done a great job for us."
- Lycoming running back Craig Needhammer on sophomore quarterback Tyler Jenny.
Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mitch_Rupert.