2024 South Atlantic Conference Football

NCAA Div. II Playoffs: Lenoir-Rhyne Carries The South Atlantic Banner

NCAA Div. II Playoffs: Lenoir-Rhyne Carries The South Atlantic Banner

After a dominant opening-round win, Lenoir-Rhyne goes on the road to face Benedict in the NCAA Div. II Playoffs.

Nov 21, 2023 by Kyle Kensing
NCAA Div. II Playoffs: Lenoir-Rhyne Carries The South Atlantic Banner

South Atlantic Conference champion Lenoir-Rhyne extended its 2023 season with a dominant showing in the opening round of the NCAA Div. II Playoffs. Up next, the Bears hit the road to face the No. 1 seed in the region, Benedict. 

Lenoir-Rhyne rides the momentum of a 63-17 thumping of Shepherd in the 1st Round, the Bears' second straight win of 40-plus points. Coming in off a 48-7 rout of Tusculum in the SAC Championship, L-R kept the same energy flowing behind the otherworldly play of quarterback Sean White. 

White's six-yard touchdown run to start the scoring opened the flood gates on a performance in which he scored seven total touchdowns. Combined with the usual physical performance out of the Bears defense, Lenoir-Rhyne may have had its most all-around dominant showing of the season. 

Now they look to take one more step toward a national championship with the visit to Benedict. 

Benedict ran the table in the regular season, completing an 11-0 campaign with its 47-10 blowout of Albany State in the SIAC Championship Game. The rout marked Benedict's fifth consecutive win decided by at least 21 points. 

One must go all the back to Oct. 7 and a 27-24 win at Miles for the last — and only — time an opponent played the Tigers to within one possession this season. 

Few defenses in Div. II football come anywhere near Lenoir-Rhyne's numbers of 79.7 rushing yards, 232.6 total yards, and 11.1 points surrendered per game. Benedict is the rare exception, boasting yields of 207.7 and 8.5 points per, both leading the nation. 

The Tigers also have the stingiest passing defense in the country at just 121.4 yards given up in the air a contest. White coming off a history-making performance passing the ball makes for an especially intriguing element to Saturday's matchup. 

Benedict's stifling defensive presence starts on the line, where the Tigers boast a pair of 1st Team All-SIAC honorees in Loobert Denelus and Jayden Broughton. The pair combine for a staggering 40 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks, while Aaron Miller has produced an additional 8.5 sacks. 

Lenoir-Rhyne's ability to use its multifaceted rushing attack against the Benedict front will be critical to give White and the receivers breathing room. Dwayne McGee, Zayvion Turner-Knox and Zyheir Dillard all being able to produce 50-plus yards give L-R an advantage none of Benedict's previous opponents could generate. 


On the flipside, the Lenoir-Rhyne defense does everything Benedict does well. The Bears own dominant tandem of Jon Ross Maye and Andre Jefferson power one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in college football, and the inability for opponents to run forces opposing offenses into long third-down situations. 

Benedict only rushes for about 4.6 yards per carry, and quarterback Aaneas Dennis' passing numbers are solid but not eye-popping. However, the efficiency of the Tigers attack complements its outstanding defense perfectly. 

The Tigers don't make mistakes. Relying on takeaways isn't a likely game plan for Lenoir-Rhyne, though generating turnovers hasn't been the M.O. of the Bears, either. Both teams' style of play suggests a war of attrition where chipping away will lead to an eventual, game-changing breakthrough.