Thursday, November 12, 2009

LSC Scoop Game Preview - ACU at MSU NCAA Playoffs

Replay or Revenge?
Apparently 60 minutes wasn't enough to settle things between the Wildcats and the Mustangs, so we'll start things all over again, just 7 days after Midwestern State's 15-13 win over Abilene Christian.

The Mustangs jumped out to a 15-0 lead in the first quarter, piling up 224 yards in the process. Zack Eskridge was a perfect 11-11 for 197 yards and a TD. The Wildcat offense was only able to muster 49 yards to that point. The ACU defense would shut down the Mustang's offense the rest of the day, allowing just 7 more first downs, 112 yards, and not allowing any more points. Eskridge would complete just 3 more passes (13 attempts) for 24 yards. But the Mustang defense, along with poor field position, came through holding ACU to just one TD and two long field goals. Midwestern State got the win, and as its reward, gets to try to do it all over again this Saturday.

Abilene Christian
The Wildcats finished the 2009 regular season with the top LSC defense (in yards allowed) at just 272.5 per game, and third in scoring defense at just 18.2 per outing. The run defense was especially tough, giving up just 41.6 yards per game (tops in the nation) and 1.6 yards per carry. They did allow 230.8 yards passing as teams had little option but to throw the ball. Aston Whiteside was 2nd in the LSC in sacks and 6th in tackles for loss while Fred Thompson was 5th and 3rd in those same categories. Tony Harp led the team with 60 total tackles.

Offensively, ACU was 7th in scoring (31.1) and 8th in yards gained (388.5). The running game, led by Darryl Richardson and Reggie Brown leads the LSC with 183.5 yards per game. The passing game struggled somewhat, finishing 10th passing yards and 9th in efficiency rating. Redshirt freshman Mitchell Gale has been hot and cold, throwing for 1,394 yards, 8 TDs and 7 interceptions. Edmund Gates and Dennis Campbell have been his favorite targets, but 8 players have 11 or more receptions.

On special teams, Morgan Lineberry is 7-9 on FG attempts this year, including 3-3 from 50+ yards. Mark Sprague averages 38.4 yards per punt. Kendrick Johnson has been outstanding on punt returns, averaging 17.3 yards per return and taking 2 back for TDs. In Justin Johnson's absence, Dennis Campbell is the leading kick returner, with a modest 16.6 yard average.

Midwestern State
The Mustangs sported the top scoring offense (36.2) and defense (12.6) in the LSC this past season. Yardage-wise, MSU was third on both sides of the ball (429.8 on offense, 317.5 on defense). The running game has been solid, but the passing game has shone. Zack Eskridge continues to lead the nation in pass effiency, and has set team single season records for completions, yards and TD passes. His favorite target continues to be Andy Tanner, who also set single season records for receptions and TD receptions, and is just 45 yards from the record for receiving yards. Sheldon Galloway has emerged as solid second option.

Defensively, MSU led the LSC in pass defense, giving up 207 yards per game, while the run defense was 6th. The Mustangs rotate a lot on defense, with 16 players racking up 20 or more tackles, and 6 with at least 15. Micah Hill, with 5 interceptions, is the only individual ranked in the national statistics.

BeeJay Mathis has done a good job returning kicks this year - 14.3 average on punt returns and 22.1 on kick returns, but has yet to break one all the way. Jose Martinez is 13-18 on field goals, with a long of 40, but only averages 34.8 yards per punt.

This Week's Outlook
We expect a similar game to last week's - hard hitting, solid defense and field position all playing big roles. Midwestern State will be hard pressed to run the ball consistently - likewise ACU passing the ball. After the way the Wildcats played the final 45 minutes, they must have felt they just needed more time and they would have won the game. Well, now they have 60 more minutes to do just that. Same pick (even same predicted score) as last week. ACU 21-17.

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