COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Bears’ Kellar optimistic as North Greenville game nears

Published Friday, September 8th, 2017

(7 p.m., Moretz Stadium)

HICKORY – Despite his Bears coming off their first losing season since 2009 and suffering a 39-point setback in their season opener, head coach Mike Kellar remains optimistic as Lenoir-Rhyne University prepares for its second game of the year.

The Bears battle North Greenville, S.C. (1-0) on Saturday between the bricks at Moretz Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“We faced a very good West Alabama team, and it wasn’t the start we were looking for as they lived up to what we had seen on tape,” Kellar said this week. “I thought some of the bright spots on our end is we competed from the start to the end, which is a much improvement from a year ago. From the program standpoint, I thought we learned a lot.”

LRU and North Greenville meet for the ninth time in a series led 5-3 by the Bears. That includes LRU winning three of the four games played in Hickory.


North Greenville — 9-4 last year and ranked 17th nationally — enters Saturday’s game ranked No. 32 in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll after beating Tusculum of the South Atlantic Conference (SAC) 34-33.

North Greenville defeated LRU 45-0 last year at LRU.

“They are a very good football team,” said Kellar. “Coach (Jeff) Farrington has been there a while and does a great job of recruiting.

“Offensively, they have most of their backfield back and offensive line (returning). They have a lot of players back from last year as well as on defense. They don’t rebuild, they reload.”

The Bears are looking to avoid 0-2 starts in back-to-back seasons since 1996 and 1997 under Charles Forbes and Bill Hart, respectively.

“As a coach, you are thinking you are going to win every football game but that’s not realistic,” said Kellar. “We were picked seventh in the league so no one expects much more from us.

“My expectations are always high but I am not going to judge it (success) on wins or losses on the scoreboard or result driven. I have always been a process driven guy.”

Improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, at least for many coaches, is an indicator of things to come.

“I think our kids know what it takes and I like their attitude,” said Kellar. “I think the most you grow is from the first week to the second week. You go through winter conditioning, have spring ball, summer conditioning, fall camp and you can only grow the team so far.

“Then you have a game and you grow from that game. You see who can handle the bright lights and who might not be ready.”

If the Bears want to turn things around, they’ll have to improve their turnover ratio and defensively.

Last year, LRU tied for 137th among 170 teams with a minus 0.73 ratio. And after one game this season, the Bears are tied for 159th among 165 teams with a minus four.

North Greenville finished with 484 yards (307 passing, 177 rushing) against Tusculum.

LRU has allowed opponents 352 or more yards of total offense in nine of its last dozen games, and six of those times the opposing team had 400 or more yards of total offense.

The Bears have been outscored 393-155 in their last 12 games, a losing margin on average of 19.9 points per game.

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