In another lifetime, Carson-Newman won 33 consecutive games against Lenoir-Rhyne. Those consecutive wins are but a distant memory in a series that L-R has owned since 2010. The Bears have taken six of the last eight from the Eagles and four in-a-row. L-R has joined Valdosta State and North Alabama as the only programs to win four straight games against a Ken Sparks-coached team. No team has ever taken five straight from a Sparks-coached team.
If the Bears are to get to that mystical fifth straight win, it will be a different process than years past.
Lenoir-Rhyne welcomed Mike Kellar as the 21st head coach in school history replacing Ian Shields who left for a job at Jacksonville.
Kellar's reputation as a head coach is beyond sound. He spent the last four years at California (Pa.) where he led the Vulcans to a 31-12 record. However, he did that with an air raid-style offense.
This past season, his quarterback James Harris was named PSAC West Player of the Year, following two consecutive seasons where he passed for 3,000 yards. Prior to being promoted to head coach, Kellar served as offensive coordinator and associate head coach for the offense in 2011 and guided the Vulcans to the most prolific passing offense in school history.
Lenoir-Rhyne has been a world-renowned flexbone team the last six-plus seasons. Last year, the Bears completed 23-of-62 passes. They were 0-for-1 aerially against the Eagles. Kellar's Vulcan offense hit 63 passing attempts in week three last year.
The big question for L-R is how the coaching change affects things. A quarterback wasn't among Kellar's 20 signees released in February. While Evin Sims is more than capable of running the option, if he's expected to throw much, well, things could get dicey. He was 13-of-45 through the air last season.
Defensively, the Bears bring back their leading tackler in Jordan Forney. Marcus Kincaid leads the secondary after a 72-tackle year.
The Better Know the Opponent series continues July 26 with Brevard.