KINGS POINT, N.Y. – So, what type of defense will we see from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy against the University of Rochester on Saturday?
Will it be the unit that surrendered 20 first-half points in the 34-27 away win at Worcester Polytechnic Institute or will it be the one that allowed the hosts to only seven points in the final 30 minutes?
Obviously, Mariners head football coach Mike Toop prefers the latter when his 2-4 team takes on the Yellowjackets (1-3) in a Liberty League encounter at Tomb Field on Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Mariners are averaging 20.2 points and 323 yards a game, but have surrendered an average of 29.0 points and 397.3 yards.
"Defensively, we continue to be inconsistent," Toop said. "You look at last week's game in the first half, you look at our defensive line and look at the second half and its two different units. That's the thing that's frustrating us a little bit. We're not playing with any consistency.
"Offensively last week, we did for the most part. But we continued to have on different series, one or two players where we have a mental bust or we break down. We just need to be more consistent because our record reflects who we are."
Toop feared his Mariners have played too tentative.
"From a defensive perspective, we play not to lose too often," he said. "You look at the Coast Guard game, we score and we go up. We let them go down the field and score. Springfield, the same thing. We played tentative. Last week in the fourth quarter we finally made some plays. They kids played to win instead of not to lose and they won the game."
Rochester has won but once this season, a 17-7 season-opening win over Case Western Reserve on Sept. 10. But the Yellowjackets have dropped three consecutive games since, including a 28-24 setback at Rensselaer last Saturday.
"The record's deceiving," Toop said. "Both league games they lost were very close. They've got all four defensive linemen back from last year."
Last year the Mariners recorded a 48-19 triumph in Rochester, avenging a 52-21 home defeat from 2009.
"Even though we scored a lot of points, I don't know if we won the match-ups up front," Toop said. "We were able to get outside of them a little bit, but we didn't do too much between the tackles. We had a long run by [John-Leon] Gosselin and that was basically it. It's going to be very, very physical on both sides of the ball."
The return of tailback Clarence Onyiriuka makes the Yellowjackets a much more dangerous team, Toop said. He did not play last year after rushing for 135 yards and three touchdowns against the Mariners the previous season.
"Two years ago down here he beat us up," added Toop, who remembered that quarterback Braezen Subick threw for a then career-high 289 yards and two TDs in that game.
"He threw the ball over us," Toop said. "This one's really scary because they have a lot of kids back. They had two weeks to prepare for us. We're going to give everything they've got and more."
The UR aerial game has been dangerous this season as Subick has completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 901 yards and six TDs. In contrast, Onyiriuka has been limited to 234 yards and 3.1 yards a carry. He also has three TDs.
"People are loading it up in the box because of their kid at tailback – which is a smart thing to do," Toop said. "He was the offensive player of the year a couple of years ago. . . . They've got kids who can make plays in the passing game. For us, we've struggled against the pass big time. In the second half last week we were better, but they ran the ball against us.
"We're banged up on defense. The kids who are playing have got to step up and make plays."
And play a more consistently on defense on Homecoming.
"It's always big," Toop said. "Homecoming's always big because you're got a couple of guys back who have been on the field, been there, down that. When you've played here and come back, you're always going to take a look at the game and compare and want to see how tough the kids are, want to see how hard they play. The guys know they're under the microscope a little bit more this week."