Another 6-1 week, missing out only on the UCO game. That puts the season to date at 38-10.
The first regional rankings came out this week, and had LSC watchers scratching their head a bit. Abilene Christian at number one made sense. After all, the Wildcats are undefeated, ranked #2 in the AFCA coaches poll, and beat defending national runner-up Northwest Missouri in the season opener. Texas A&M-Kingsville is #6, Angelo State #7, Midwestern State #9, while Tarleton State is not ranked in the top 10. Why are the LSC teams ranked so low? Strength of Schedule - the LSC North has been pretty weak this year, and that is hurting the LSC South teams' strength of schedule standings. That will alleviate somewhat as divisonal play will move the won-loss percentages for the North teams up some (and conversely will move the MIAA's percentages down). What can really help these teams is if their non-conference opponents do well for the remainder of the season (so go Delta State, New Mexico Highlands and Arkansas Monticello).
In the national polls, four teams are currently ranked in both the AFCA and D2football.com polls, while Angelo State has joined the AFCA top 25 for the first time since 2005. ACU leads the way ranked second in both polls, followed by TAMK (9th in the AFCA, 7th in the D2football.com), Tarleton State (15th and 16th), MSU (18th and 20th ) and Angelo State (23rd in the AFCA poll).
Last Week's Games
ACU 43, ECU 6
If you are midway through the season and not settled on a quarterback, things are usually not going well. Not so with the Wildcats - they remain undefeated and #2 in the nation. With a tough LSC South schedule coming up, this was the week to give redshirt freshman Mitchell Gale his first collegiate start. Gale responded by throwing for 300 yards and 3 TDs, hitting 20 of 28 passes. Edmund Gates and Raymond Radway combined to catch 8 passes for 190 yards. Darryl Richardson also rushed for 143 yards and 3 TDs. The Tigers offense struggled mightily - their first 8 possessions consisted of 24 plays. The lone score for ECU was set up by a fumble recovery on ACU's 11 yard line in the fourth quarter.
SBU 31, UCO 23
Last year's late season run seems so long ago. UCO's offense was inconsistent, picking up 444 yards but only turning that into 23 points. Third downs were a problem - the Bronchos converted just 3 of 17. The bigger problem was the defense, especially in the first half when SBU scored TDs on four consecutive long drives (average drive 71 yards). The Broncho defense allowed 541 yards on the day, 25o rushing and 291 passing. Despite that, UCO had a shot to take the game, but two fourth quarter drives died out after getting inside the SBU 30 yard line.
SOSU 33, SWO 10
The Savage Storm might be only North team with a winning record at season's end. To do that, they will need to continue to take care of business in games like this one. Two Jerome Hewitt special teams TD returns were a big boost for the Savage Storm in this offensively challenged contest. SOSU gained just 254 yards on the day (compared to 253 kick/punt return yards), while SWO only had 155 yards of offense. The Storm continue rotate their QBs, with Dallas McCutcheon starting but Justin Pitrucha getting most of the playing time.
ASU 47, ENMU 23
The offenses took a little while to get going - the first TD came with just 1:22 left in the first half, but the Rams and Greyhounds made up for it in the fourth quarter, with 42 combined points. The Greyhounds could not get anything going in the first half - 8 punts and an interception. The second half was a different story, no punts, but four turnovers (two for an ASU TDs, the other two on the ASU 19 and 11 yard line) doomed the Greyhounds. The Rams offense took better care of the ball and put together consecutive TD drives late in the second quarter and two more in the fourth on their way to a 599 yard performance.
TAMC 27, NSU 12
For the third game in the last 4 weeks, the Lions turn it on in the fourth quarter, turning a 12-10 deficit into a 27-12 win. Cory Whitfield and Israel Hughes scored defensive TDs with the game on the line, giving Texas A&M-Commerce its second consecutive win and a leg up in the LSC North race. The teams combined for just 403 yards offensively with just one drive of 60 yards all day.
MSU 31, WTAM 19
After a Kelvin Thompson TD gave the Buffaloes a 19-10 lead with 11:40 to go, Midwestern State took over. For the remainder of the game, the defense forced three punts and two interceptions, the offense scored on three of the next 4 drives, and the special teams blocked a punt inside the WT 10 yard line. Zack Eskridge had another solid game with 235 yards and 2 TDs.
TAMK 34, TSU 20
In a game that lived up to our Game of the Year (Part I) hype, three huge turnovers break open a tied ball game. The Javelinas took a 14-0 lead with 5:48 to play in the first half, but Tarleton clawed back, tying the game at 20 on a Garrett Lindholm 40 yard FG with just over 9 minutes to play. The Texan defense stopped the Javelinas on the next possession and were driving for a go-ahead score, when Marcus Sanders sacked Scott Grantham forcing a fumble that TAMK recovered. The Javelinas would go up 27-20 three plays later. Still with a chance, Jeff Edwards intercepted a tipped pass, and TAMK would score their final TD on the next play. TSU still did not give up, driving down the field to pull within one score, but a Shaun Ragon fumble was recovered on the Javelina one yard line, and TAMK was able to run out the clock. Billy Garza struggled for the second straight week, but was clutch going 4-5 for 55 yds and a TD in the fourth quarter.
This Week's Games
#2 Texas A&M-Kingsville at #7 Texas A&M-Commerce - Mismatch of the week
Okay, this is not really a mismatch, just the matchup with the biggest differential in our rankings. The Javelinas have shown in the last two weeks that they can take a punch from good teams and find a way to win. The ability to run the ball effectively (228 yards against a Texan defense that was giving up just 69 per game) has helped the team withstand a mid-season rough patch from Billy Garza. The Lion defense has been good against the run, but is allowing an LSC worst 315 yards per game passing. On the flip side, TAMC's offense has come almost entirely through air. The Lions throw for 233 yards per game, while TAMK gives up just 184. The Javelinas bring home the Chennault cup, TAMK 35-21
#12 East Central at Incarnate Word
The Tigers have to be glad to have the first half of the season behind them. Six games against opponents with a combined 27-8 record, four of them currently ranked nationally. That doesn't totally excuse their performance on the field, where they have been outscored 217-31. They are facing future LSC member Incarnate Word, fresh off of a 38-35 OT win over Panhandle State, overcoming a 35-7 deficit, scoring 4 TDs in the final 21 minutes of regulation. UIW is averaging 22 points and 309 yards offensively, while allowing 36 points and 438 yards. Against two quality D2 teams (Midwestern State and Arkansas Tech), they were outscored 89-17. Making things worse, their top two wide receivers will miss this game due to injuries. This is one of two remaining games that the Tigers have a good shot of winning. ECU 21-17
#9 Central Oklahoma at #6 Southeastern Oklahoma
The Bronchos season so far has been one of frustration. Week two's win over West Texas A&M doesn't look nearly as good as it did at the time, and unlike 2008, UCO has not found a way to win the close games yet. The offense has been in the middle of the LSC pack, but the defense is down in the bottom third, giving up 447 yards and 33 points per game. The Savage Storm have won the games they were supposed to, and are sitting at 4-2. They continue to rotate quarterbacks, trying to ride the hot hand. The offense has sputtered a bit in recent weeks, but is still middle of the pack. The defense has better statistics than UCO's - 28.5 points and 397 yards allowe per game, but have not faced as many quality teams. When SOSU did face good teams (MSU and ACU) they were outscored 67-20. This should be a good game, but being at home, SOSU should pull out a close one, 28-24 Savage Storm.
#13 Southwestern Oklahoma at #11 Northeastern State
Hoo boy. Matchup of teams with a combined 1-11 record, 11th and 12th in scoring offense, total yards gained, passing yards and passing efficiency. Actually SWO did play fairly well last week, but two special teams TDs doomed them against Southeastern Oklahoma. Northeastern State also had a good game, but theirs was spoiled by two TAMC defensive TDs in the fourth quarter. While both offenses have struggled mightily this year, the Riverhawks defense has been okay, giving up 353 yards and 28 points per game. That should be the difference in this one, NSU 17-7.
#8 Eastern New Mexico at #10 West Texas A&M
The Wagon Wheel game is always a big one, regardless of the teams' records. ENMU still leads the LSC in scoring and total offense, despite facing two of the best defenses the past two weeks. Late turnovers really hurt the young Greyhounds in those two losses. JJ Harp now has 3,000 yards passing, with 20 TDs as well. For the second week in a row, the Buffaloes threw a serious scare into their ranked opponent, but came up short again. If they can continue to get pressure on the QB (8 sacks the past two weeks), they have a shot in this one. If not it will be a long day. Look for the Buffs to continue to play hard and pull out a squeaker - WT 35-31
#4 Midwestern State at #5 Tarleton State
That this isn't the game of the week is a testament to the number of quality teams topping the LSC this year. On paper, the teams look pretty well matched. 2nd and 4th in scoring, 5th and 6th in total offense, 1st and 2nd in scoring defense, and 1st and 3rd in total defense. Tarleton is the better running team, while Midwestern has had more success through the air. Both have been good stopping the run, and great against the pass. Normally when the teams are so closely matched, we go with the better quarterback, in this case that would be Midwestern State's Zack Eskeridge. Normally, but not always. Tarleton rebounds with a 27-24 win.
Game of the Year (Part II)
#1 Abilene Christian at #3 Angelo State
How many times do you see a team averaging over 400 yards and scoring 35 points per game make a QB change in the middle of the season? Well ACU did last week, inserting redshirt freshman Mitchell Gale into the starting slot last week. Against ECU's defense he did very well, tossing 3 TDs and throwing for 300 yards. This week he'll be facing an entirely different situation. The Rams lead the LSC with 27 quarterback sacks, and have picked off 10 passes this year. If ACU can run the ball effectively that will help matters out. They do lead the LSC with 209 yards rushing per game, but ASU is second in run defense, allowing just 54 yards per game. On the other side of the matchups, Angelo State has not had any quarterback controversy this year - Josh Neiswander is firmly in control - 2nd in the LSC with 284 yards per game with 15 TDs and just 3 interceptions. The Wildcats have allowed 209 yards a game through the air and have 10 interceptions of their own. The running game has been good for ASU, 4th in the league at 143 yards per game, but they face the top run defense - ACU has given up just 32 yards per game. One are Angelo State better improve on is penalties - they cannot afford 185 yards of penalties this week and hope to win. Two intangibles that we think will be important are homefield advantage, and Angelo showing against a good Midwestern State defense, that they can pull out a close game in crunch time. We will take the Rams in a big upset, ASU 24-21.