Wilmington travels to Marietta Saturday

Freshman Zak Kruer and the running game looks to increase their production. (Wilmington file photo/John Swartzel)
Freshman Zak Kruer and the running game looks to increase their production. (Wilmington file photo/John Swartzel)

For the second straight season, Wilmington's week seven match-up with Marietta is a battle of teams looking to secure its first win of the season. Last year, the Fightin' Quakers snapped a 32-game losing streak with the 13-12 home victory.

This year, the two teams will be meeting at Marietta's Don Drumm Stadium with both squads under new coaching staffs.

The Pioneers come into the game last in the Ohio Athletic Conference in scoring offense (11.2 points) and scoring defense (56.3 points). Despite their inability to finish drives with points, the Marietta rushing attack is in the middle of the pack. Led by junior running back Tim Conner, they are sixth in the league with 139.0 yards per game. Wilmington is allowing 224.5 yards per game on the ground, good for seventh in the OAC.

"When you look at our previous games in which we gave up a lot of yards on the ground, it's a lot of missed assignments and missed tackles," said Wilmington head coach Stacey Hairston. "It doesn't matter if the player designed to make the play, doesn't make it. We have to play assignment sound football."

Wilmington linebacker Tarrell Starckey will be responsible for ensuring his team is properly lined up against a Marietta offense that does a lot pre-snap motion and shifting. Starckey leads the team, and is third in the OAC with 67 tackles. However, he hasn't recorded a tackle in any tackles for loss in the last two games.

After torching Muskingum for 327 yards and three touchdowns, sophomore Jeremy Duncan and the rest of the Wilmington passing attack has slowed down. They could revitalize its attack against a Pioneer team that is last in the OAC, allowing 253.2 yards per game.

However, Hairston realizes that in order to open up some more passing lanes for the offense, the rushing attack has to pick up. Wilmington is last in the OAC with 53.8 yards rushing per game.

"At the end of the day, we have to run the ball," said Hairston. "Teams are defending the run with three defensive linemen. If we can't run the ball, it doesn't matter."

Hairston added that the team has to do a better job of handling adversity.

"It's a mental block," he said. "It's growing and changing the culture. This team hasn't done it yet."