The first Game of the Year features a matchup of teams that have won the last 7 LSC Championships. The Buffaloes are right about where everyone expected them to be, undefeated, near the top nationally in offense and with a solid defense. The Javelinas, on the other hand, seem to be ahead of schedule. Almost everyone expected them to be improved, but after an opening game loss at North Dakota, TAMK blew through three LSC North games, all on the road. This will be their home opener.
West Texas A&M
WTAM Game Notes
The Buffaloes have been known in recent years for a potent offense. This year is no different, as WT is second in the LSC in both scoring (47 pts) and total offense (529 yds). Keith Null picked up where he left off last year, and is on pace to become the Buffaloes all-time passing yardage leader. He is completing 69% of his passes for 354 yds a game, and has 13 TD passes to just 3 Ints. His favorite targets have been Charly Martin (24-408 5 TDs) and Carl Johnson (20-294 1 TD). Martin could become the all-time WT leader in receiving yards this weekend (he trails Brad Bailey by 28 yds) and could surpass Bailey in career receptions by the end of the year. Null spreads the ball around well - 3 other players have double digit receptions and 6 others have TD receptions. Keithon Flemming is the leading rusher, with 334 yards and 5 TDs. Kelvin Thompson and Wayne McKnight are quality backups. The offensive line, led by senior Tommy Crowley, Daniel Sherwood and newcomer J'Marcus Webb, have allowed just 5 sacks, and the run blocking has resulted in WT averaging 5.5 yds per carry.
The defense was expected to be much improved with a lot of returning players, and the addition of high profile talent on the defensive line. Dexter Manley II, Broderick Marshall and Eugene Sims anchor the line, backed up by Marvin Wash, Marcus Rowe and Brandon Swain (an All-American in 2007). They have combined for 5.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for losses. The linebackers are led by All-American Jared Brock. Joining him are Eldon Grimslid, Max Steward, Anthony Scott and Mark Ford. Darnell Johnson, Cashmin Thomas, Kyle Seals, and Braelon Davis are the starters in the secondary, but Tae Evans, Curtis Jefferson, Keyon Kiles, and Arseel Shakoor have provided quality playing time as well.
There has been a lot of talk about Billy Garza, the transfer from Illinois - and it has been well placed. The senior has thrown for 997 yds, with 8 TDs and 3 Ints, but a completion rate of just 51%. He has shown improvement each game. Jereko Taylor is the leading receiver with 22 catches for 417 yds and 5 TDs. Three other Javelina receivers have double digit receptions as well. The running game has been a surprise averaging 151 yds a game (compared to under 100 last year). No one running back stands out - instead it has been a group effort with no player averaging 40 yds per game. The offensive line has played well, allowing just 3 sacks through 4 games. Juniors Markeith Wesley and Jorge Guerra, have started together since they were freshmen, Soph Tim Byerly is starting at center for the second year, while newcomer Michael Mosmeyer and red-shirt freshman Daniel Sharpe have done well on the other side. Overall the offense is averaging 35 pts (4th in the LSC) and 463 yds (3rd) per game.
A year after allowing 414 yards and 31.5 pts per game, the TAMK defense appears to be greatly improved. Even with North Dakota scoring 40 points in the season opener, the defense is allowing jsut 18.5 pts per game and only 298 yds. The run defense has been especially stingy, holding the opposition to just 56 yds per game and under 2 yds per carry. The defensive line, led by Tyrell Herndon, Jimmy Lugo, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Jeff Edwards and Dondi Cooks has combined for 6 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Herndon even has an interception that he returned for 40 yds to his credit. Mike Martinez and Arlen Childress are the teams starters at linebacker and the leading tacklers. The secondary has gotten contributions from a lot of players (8 of teams top 13 tacklers). Jabir Perkins has had an immediate impact with 3 Ints and is third on the team in tackles.
Just looking at the numbers the teams seem pretty evenly matched - high power offenses and solid defenses. They are both undefeated against D2 teams and both handled their LSC North foes handily. The Buffaloes have been better at third down conversions on offense and defense. The Javelinas are tied for the LSC lead in turnover margin. Special teams are split, with WT sporting better kick and punt return averages, but TAMK with a better FG percentage. Red zone offense is a slight edge to the Buffs, but red zone defense has been better for the Javs. One area where the Buffaloes have a clear edge is experience - they are loaded with playoff veterans. The Javelinas have just a few players from their last winning season. We'll go with that experience - West Texas in a close one 35-28.
Coach Atterberry on West Texas:
I have a lot of respect for Coach Carthel, his staff, players, and what they
have been able to accomplish. There is a reason they are the defending
champions and continue to play at a high level. They are very consistent
and show up every Saturday ready to play 60 minutes.
Coach Atterberry on the Javelinas:
Our players have focused and continued to get better each week and I am proud of them for that. They understand we still have a lot of work to do and know
it will take a great deal of discipline to accomplish our goals.