NCAA Playoff First Round Game
West Texas A&M at Central Missouri
Saturday, November 20 1:00
The Mules of Central Missouri are making their second foray into the NCAA playoffs. Their only other appearance came in 2002, resulting in a 49-28 loss to Northern Colorado. Head Coach Jim Svoboda is in his first year at UCM, coaching the team to a 9-2 record with losses to Northwest Missouri (17-16, on a last second FG, after missing two fourth quarter FGs themselves) and 55-54 to FCS Illinois State.
The offense led the MIAA in scoring (39.3 points, 8th nationally) and total offense (488.1 yards per game, 5th nationally). They like to throw the ball, and do it well. MIAA Offensive Player of the Year, Eric Czerniewski has thrown for 4,150 yards, with 34 TDs and 12 Ints. For his career, he has thrown for 11,790 yards, with 95 TD passes. His favorite targets are WR Jamorris Warren (90-1,205 16 TD), TE DeMarco Cosby (55-727 9 TDs) and RB Anthony Stewart (59-650 3 TDs). All three were first team All-MIAA selections. Stewart is also the leading rusher, gaining 874 yards and scoring another 11 TDs. Up front, the Mules are pretty young, starting three sophomores, a junior and a senior. Soph. Logan Freeman was a second team all conference selection, while senior Darius Henderson was an honorable mention. For the season, UCM quarterbacks were sacked just 13 times.
Comparison - West Texas A&M
The Buffaloes are 2nd in the nation in total offense (529 yds per game), 4th in scoring (42.6 pts), 2nd in passing (416 yds per game) and 118th in rushing (113 yds per game). Taylor Harris now has 4,311 yards and 34 TDs this season. For his career, he has 9,304 yards passing and is 464 yards behind Keith Null on the WT career passing charts. Kelvin Thompson has 727 yards rushing on the season with 7 TDs and another 275 yards on 36 receptions. Tyson Williams (91-1,242 8 TDs), Stephen Burton (62-926 10 TDs) and Brittan Golden (45-699 9 TDs) are likely the most productive trio of receivers in the nation. The offensive line did not receive much love when the All-LSC teams were announced, with center Hector Rodriguez receiving second team honors, and Isaiah Lewis and Dan Sherwood getting honorable mention.
The Mule defense doesn't garner the same accolades as the offense, allowing 25.2 points and 389 yards per game. Opponents have rushed for an average of 158 yards and passed for 231 yards per contest. DB Marlon Douglas was the lone 1st team All-MIAA selection. He led UCM with 3 interceptions (two which were returned for TDs) and had 6 passes broken up. He is joined in the secondary by Deonte Bell, an honorable mention selection, Joseph Bangali and Patrick Lewis. Up front, P. J. South was a second team selection as a defensive tackle, Deonte McDonald an honorable mention at defensive end, and they are joined by DE David Bax and NG Peni Fiuangaihetau. The linebackers are Cody Scribner (HM All-MIAA), Evan Knight, and Joe Carter.
Comparison - West Texas A&M
Again, on paper, the Buffs look a little better. For the season, teams scored 23.6 points and 346 yards per game, rushing for 127 yards and passing for 219. Cornerback Tae Evans was named the LSC-South Defensive Back of the year, while fellow cornergack Caleb Randolph and safety Curtis Jefferson also garnered first team honors and Jordan Smith was named to the second team. The four combined for 197 tackles, 11 interceptions (4 returned for TDs) and 36 passes broken up. Jefferson was injured and his condition is unknown at this time. Linebackers Shad Baichtol (1st LSC South), Kyle Voss (2nd LSC South) and Kevin McCluskey (HM LSC South) were also productinve, combining for 156 tackles, 33.5 for losses, and 12.5 sacks. Up front Kyle Thomas (1st LSC South), Dishon Robertson (2nd LSC South), Rashad Sanders (HM LSC South), and Simi Kuli combined for another 111 tackles, 21 for losses and 8 sacks.
Aaron Jamieson is 15-19 on FGs this year, but missed two critical ones late against NWMSU to could have won the game. He also has 7 misses in 54 PAT attempts. Zach Gebhardt handles kickoff duties, and averages 62.8 yards per kickoff with 17 touchbacks and none out of bounds. Matt Jordan is the punter - he averaged 38 yards per punt, with 9 downed inside the 20 and 4 touchbacks. The Mules average 20.8 per kickoff return with Seth Mason (18.3) and Anthony Stewart (20.9) handling the bulk of the duties. Adam Parks is the leading punt returner with a 9 yard average.
For WT, Sergio Castillo was a 1st team LSC South selection after converting 51-52 PATs and 9-13 field goals on the season (all misses were from 40+ yards out). Kevin VonVoris handles most of the kickoffs, with a 66.1 yard average, 10 touchbacks and 2 kicks out of bounds. Tim Cowdrey (33.7 avg) and VonVoris (38.4 avg)split punting duties. Tommy Hampton (29.2 avg), Aarhon Flores (10.2 avg) and Stephen Burton (23.1 avg) returned the majority of kickoffs, while Brittan Golden (6.0 avg) and Burton (9.8 avg) were the top punt returners.
You couldn't ask for a much closer matchup on paper. Very little separates these two teams statistically speaking. Both bring prolific offenses and defenses that have given up points and yards at times during the season. One thing West Texas A&M brings to the game is postseason experience. Since 2005, the Buffs have been in the NCAA playoffs 5 times (counting this year) and played Nebraska-Omaha in the initial Kanza Bowl last year. For Central Missouri, this is just their second NCAA playoff game and first in 8 years. We'll go with the Buffs to get that rematch with ACU next week, WT in a shootout 45-42.