Last Weeks Picks 8-4 - We're glad we missed on the ACU, TAMK and Tarleton games. Either we overestimated their GSC and MIAA opponents, or underestimated our LSC teams, especially the defenses.
This week's games
Fort Lewis at Abilene Christian - Mismatch of the week
Fort Lewis came from behind to defeat Oklahoma Panhandle State last weekend, 23-13. The offense could must just 236 yards total, with only 40 coming on the ground. Of that 236 yards, 102 came on two fourth quarter scoring drives that gave the Skyhawks a hard fought victory. The defense limited OPSU to just 258 yards, with 175 rushing and just 83 passing. Nick Becker had a busy day, with 13 tackles, 2.5 for losses including a sack.
This week's game should be a welcome respite for ACU, which won a defensive slugfest last Thursday with (then) #2 ranked Northwest Missouri 19-14. The Wildcat defense allowed just 230 yards, and matched the NWMSU offense with a TD score on a fumble return. The Bearcats could muster just 57 yards rushing, with preseason All American LaRon Council picking up 69 yards on 20 carries. However ACU's offense has held to just 174 yards, 85 rushing and 89 passing. The longest play from scrimmage (for both teams) was a 24 yard TD pass from Clark Harrell to Ben Gibbs.
Look for the Wildcat offense to catch up to the defense this week. ACU should be able to establish their running game against a defense that gave up 175 yards to OPSU and the receivers will enjoy less stifling pass coverage. Don't look for the defense to let up though. ACU easily 42-7
Angelo State at Texas State
Last year, the Rams almost shocked the Bobcats leading 14-7 after three quarters. The final period would prove costly to ASU. Not only did Texas State score two TDs (while ASU could not capitalize on two trips into the red zone), but starting QB Josh Neiswander suffered a broken leg and missed the remainder of the season. This years' Bobcat team is ranked #21 coming into the season, and returns a veteran-laden squad, led by QB Bradley George and two-time 1,000 yard RB Karrington Bush.
Angelo State has the benefit of getting a game under their belt, while this is the season opener for Texas State. In last week's opener, the ASU defense allowed just one TD and forcing A&M-Commerce to punt the ball 11 times. The Lions could manage just 34 yards rushing and completed less than 50% of their pass attempts. To top things off, the Rams sacked TAMC QBs 5 times. As for the ASU offense, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, 101 yards and one sustained drive was all the Rams could produce. In the second half, 231 yards and three scoring drives, the shortest of which was 66 yards.
The Rams will need a full game of that kind of effort to give themselves an opportunity to finish what they started last year. Unfortunatley, Texas State is deeper and more talented team than Texas A&M-Commerce and should be able to take this one somewhat comfortably. Texas State 35-14
Texas A&M-Commerce at Southeastern Louisiana
The Southeastern Louisiana Lions are coming off of a 5-7 campaign. Two of the losses were to Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech, and three SLC conference losses were by a combined 17 points. SELA returns their starting QB Brian Babin (2,800 yds and 25 TDs passing) and his top three WRs who combined for 143 catches for 1,712 yds and 20 TDs. The defense allowed 32 points and 423 yards per game. Every opponent scored at least 21 points last year.
That should cheer up the other Lions. Last week, they struggeled and sputtered their way to 190 yards on offense and just one TD. In their respective debuts, Jetavious Best rushed for 43 yards on 13 carries, while Reid Herchenbach completed 16-28 passes for 156 yards. The run defense did its job, holding Angelo State to just 91 yards rushing. ASU was able to pass for 241 yards and two TDs, which is a concern this weekend.
The Lions will win this game, guaranteed. Okay, so both teams are the Lions, so what? Both defenses present opportunities for yards to be gained and points to be scored. In a close game, the general rule is to go with the FCS team over the D2 school. We hope we're wrong here, but... SELA 35-21
Eastern New Mexico at Southwestern Oklahoma
Eastern New Mexico dropped a close one Colorado State-Pueblo last Saturday, 23-28. The Greyhounds had a chance to pull out a victory, with the ball on the CSUP 18 with 8 seconds to play. Instead J.J. Harp was sacked and time ran out. Their previous drive ended deep in CSUP territory as Harp was picked off at the two yard line. Overall, ENMU showed the ability to move the ball through the air, 513 yards passing, but the running game was non-existant (2 net yards). Harp set an NCAA record with his 78 pass attempts and ENMU records with 45 completions and 513 yards. Darian Dale and Jesse Poku combined for 18 catches for 258 yards and 2 TDs. Defensively, ENMU allowed 227 yards rushing and 175 passing to the second year CSUP squad. LBs Nathan Uland and Texavier Henry combined for 23 tackles.
The Bulldogs ran into a Hornets nest last weekend (no pun intended), as Emporia State racked up 494 yards of offense, converting 3 second half turnovers into TDs and soundly defeating SWO, 48-17. LaDarrian Page and Adrian Abner combined to rush for 262 yards and 4 TDs, averaging over 8 yards per carry. Offensively, things started out well - of SWO's first four possesions, they had two sustained drives resulting in scores. Then came the drought - 6 consecutive possessions of 3 or fewer plays. By then, the game was out of reach withHornets enjoying a comfortable 24 point lead. Senior QB Steve Day hit 15-32 passes for 131 yds and a TD, but also had 2 fourth quarter Ints. J.R. Hammond had 98 yards rushing and a TD. Jaron Burgess led the defense with 12 tackles, 1.5 for losses and had an Int.
We'll go on record as saying that SWO will not give up 399 yards rushing this week - you can pretty much take that to the bank. They will give a lot of yards through the air, but should be able to hold off the young pups. SWO 28-21
East Central at Texas A&M-Kingsville
Not too many positives to take from last week's 48-0 loss for the Tigers. UNO scored 6 offensive TDs on its first 7 possessions, with the halftime break keeping the Mavericks from scoring another one. Offensively, ECU's longest "drive" was 14 yards. For the game, ECU gained 63 total yards, while giving up 443.
For Texas A&M-Kingsville, turnovers nearly did them in, but the Javelinas were able to overcome 5 turnovers (two returned for scores, and two inside Delta State's 30) and upset the #3 Statesmen. The Javelina's forced just one turnover, but Jeff Edward's interception on the Javelina 4 yard line stopped DSU's best drive of the night and prevented them from building on a two point lead. TAMK proceeded to drive 89 yards down the field and took their first lead of the night on a 47 yard TD catch and run by Connell Davis. Overall, TAMK outgained DSU by a 506-234 margin.
East Central should certainly show some improvement over last week's game, and the Javelinas are probably due for a bit of a letdown, but not enough for an upset here. TAMK 42-14
Tarleton State at Northeastern State
The Texans took on Arkansas-Monticello, picked to finish fourth in the GSC this year, behind perennial favorites Delta State, North Alabama, and Valdosta State. QB Scott Buisson, touted as a Harlon Hill candidate coming into the season, was held to 182 total yards and just one TD pass. Overall the Tarleton defense limited UAM to just 317 yards and had 3 sacks among 9 tackles for losses. Offensively, TSU used a strong running game (245 yards) and an effective passing game (10-18 184 yds and 2 TDs) to pull away in a 45-16 win. The Texans punted just once on their last 7 possessions.
Meanwhile, Arkansas Tech was picked fifth in the preseason GSC poll right behind UAM. The Wonderboys had a slim 30-25 lead after Jared Homer's 30 yd FG with 14 minutes to play, but ATU responded with two TD drives to ice the game. ATU dominated a 20 minute stretch from the 1:26 mark in the 1st to the 11:06 mark in the 3rd, outscoring NSU 30-7. Offensively, NSU tallied 376 yards, 144 on the ground and 232 passing. QB Woody Wilson was the leading rusher wtih 93 yards while completing 17-33 passes for 232 yards and 2 TDs. The defense gave up 460 yards, just 106 rushing, but 354 passing.
The Texans should be feeling pretty good coming into this game, having shut down one the nation's top QBs and winning fairly easily. The Riverhawks showed last week that they can take a punch and come back and compete. Still the Texans' tough defense and balanced offense should be good enough this week. TSU 42-24
Central Oklahoma at West Texas A&M
The Bronchos entered the season ranked #16 in the AFCA poll and riding an LSC best 7 game winning streak. Those are both history now, as Pitt State beat UCO 42-13 in Pittsburg, Kansas. UCO was within striking distance midway throught the third quarter, trailing only 21-13 after Brian Didonato's second FG of the game. It was all Pitt State after that, with the Gorillas putting together TD drives of 77, 80 and 85 yards and keeping UCO off the board. Defensively, UCO allowed 590 yards, with 308 coming from the pounding PSU ground attack and 282 through the air. Meanwhile, the Bronchos couldn't muster up a running game (45 yards) forcing Brandon Noohi into airing it out 54 times (29 completions, 333 yards).
West Texas A&M welcomed #1 Grand Valley to town before a crowd of 15,000+. The Buffaloes defense played well early on, forcing two GV punts, getting a turnover off of a fumble, and picking up a safety - all in the Lakers' first 5 possessions. But like a true champion, GV righted themselves and reeled off 4 straight TDs and then a FG on the following drive taking control of the game. WT's offense moved the ball pretty well agains the Laker defense, which is one of the nation's best year in and year out, but 5 trips inside the GV 30 yard line resulted in 14 points. Taylor Harris and Tanner Marsh combined for 382 yards passing, but the Buffs gained just 44 yards on the ground.
Though both teams are 0-1, they will be better teams for scheduling such tough openers. The problem is that one of these teams will be starting the season off with two losses and no margin for error for the rest of the season. Look for WT to take this one, 31-24
Game of the Week
Midwestern State at Southeastern Oklahoma
While a 41-0 win is a great start to a season, its unclear how much Midwestern State learned about themselves - New Mexico Highlands is not a strong contender in any given year. Zack Eskridge picked up where he left off last season, completing 20-26 passes for 219 yards and 3 TDs. Surprisingly the running game only picked up 86 yards rushing against a Cowboy defense that allowed 164 yards per game in a passing conference. The Mustang's defense was stifling, giving up just 124 yards total for the evening and forcing three turnovers.
For Southeastern Oklahoma, it was the opposite - a stellar offensive game (531 yds), coupled with an okay defensive (317 yds) effort. Dallas McCutcheon had a great first start, 21-37 for 359 yards and tied a team record with 5 TDs. Daniel Nichols had 7 receptions for 131 yards and 3 TDs and Baylen Laury rushed for 114 yards and 2 TDs on just 12 carries. Defensively, the Savage Storm allowed 274 yards passing, but picked off two passes and allowed just one drive of more than 21 yards in the second half.
This is a game much like the Texas A&M-Commerce vs. Angelo State game last week - not a top 3 marquee matchup, but one that has pretty big implications in the LSC standings. We're going to take the Savage Storm in a close one - SOSU 27-24