Sleepless nights wrestling with Eagle passing game
Andre Addison (3) returned this interception 41 yards against Dayton.
Andre Addison (3) returned this interception 41 yards against Dayton.
It’s not the first time this has happened this year, but Jacksonville University coach Kerwin Bell spent three near sleepless nights in his office this week.

“I’m tired,’’ he said after his Wednesday radio show. “I’ve got to go home and sleep in my own bed.’’

Unlike the last time this happened, Bell reported his air mattress didn’t spring a leak this week and he’s hoping his pass defense doesn’t either.

The cause for all the commotion is that Morehead State and its Football Championship Series top-ranked passing game is coming to town Saturday for a 1 p.m. Pioneer Football League game.

“This team can put up a lot of points,’’ Bell said. “Their quarterback (Zach Lewis) takes a lot of hits but stands in there and is a tough customer.’’

The Eagles (2-4, 1-2) head to D.B. Milne Field averaging 383 yards in the air as Lewis is 171-for-260 passing (65.8 percent) for 1,963 yards, 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Lewis has hit five receivers 20 or more times with passes and the team’s 383 passing yards per game leads the country.

While the passing game is the highlight of the offense, MSU isn’t one dimensional.

Running back Desmond Cox has 518 yards rushing and six touchdowns and with their 508.8 total offensive yards per game they rank second nationally in that category.

The Dolphins (4-2, 3-0) have the country’s fifth-ranked pass defense, giving up only 143 yards a game.

“They’re very effective in what they do,’’ secondary coach Danny Verpale said. “You’ve got to put more DBs (defensive backs) out there and know where he (Lewis) wants to go.’’

The secondary has seen passing teams like this before, according to Verpale, in fact they see one every day. “We go against our offense and they throw it around pretty well,’’ he said.

The Eagles know that. In the last three games, JU has outscored them 140 to 29 and in those games quarterback Josh McGregor has 17 touchdown passes, including seven last year.

And unlike Bell, Verpale has been getting to sleep at night.

“I try not to think about it,’’ he said. “I’ve drawn up a bunch of pass plays this week, I’ll tell you that.’’

One of those most affected will be defensive back Andre Addison, who returned an interception 41 yards last week against Dayton.

Addison, a sophomore, said he hasn’t quite seen a passing attack as potent as Morehead State’s.

“It’s a challenge,’’ he said. “They bring extra factors to the passing game, but hat gets me excited. I’m definitely going to contest the ball.’’

Addison recalled his interception, the third of his career.

“As soon as I started running toward the ball, everything just slowed down,’’ he said. “I’m trying to return one for a touchdown.’’

The game will be carried on television locally on CW-17 with Cole Pepper doing play-by-play and former NFL player Maurice Williams doing color.

On radio, the game can be heard on 1010XL and with Terry Norvelle doing play-by-play. The Bono’s Barbeque Pregame Show begins at 12:30 p.m.

-- Jim Nasella