Heading into the 2010 season, most people who looked at the LSC thought it was a four team race – Midwestern State, West Texas A&M, Abilene Christian and Texas A&M-Kingsville. It was pretty obvious that those teams would have to beat everyone on their schedule and try to pull off the tough wins against each other if they had playoff aspirations. To their credit the Mustangs were able to beat everyone else on their schedule…it was the three biggies they just couldn’t handle. The season started off very well for Midwestern, winning their first 3 games by an average of almost 40 points. But then came a couple of strange weeks…a 6 point win over a struggling Central Oklahoma and an OT win over Incarnate Word in Wichita Falls, probably due to looking ahead to the Week 6 matchup against Abilene Christian. A Mitchell Gale TD pass with 2 mins left broke the hearts of the Mustangs. It seemed to put a dent in the confidence of the Mustangs, who would go on to lose to West Texas A&M by 13 and Texas A&M-Kingsville by 20, and barely held on for a close win over a struggling Tarleton State. While just missing the playoffs, they would go to the Kanzaa Bowl against Washburn without injured QB Zach Eskridge and would get blown out 45-14.
Quick – tell me what the Mustangs offense excelled at in 2010. QB Zach Eskridge, a former Harlon Hill candidate was at the helm so most people would think their passing game drove their offense. But you’d be wrong. The Mustang rushing game actually averaged an incredible 212 yards per game, best in the LSC by an unbelievable 50 yards a game. Their passing game, however, actually only accounted for 185 yards per game, which ranked all the way down at 11th in the conference. The Midwestern offense would go on to score 31 points per game (6th) and 398 yards per game (5th). Their passing efficiency was 124.9 (4th), and their turnover margin was an impressive 0.58, good enough for 2nd in the LSC. Their stunning 93.9% Red Zone offense led the LSC by a huge 7% points. While the Mustang offense might not have been prolific, they were extremely efficient. Zach Eskridge finished up his impressive Mustang career injured, with 1,976 passing yards, 17 TD’s/6 INT. Amini Silatolu had an incredible season, earning AP Little American second-team, AFCA Division II Coaches' All American first-team, Daktronics All American second-team and D2Football.com All American first-team honors.
The Mustang defense has been become a strength for them every season, and 2010 was no different. They held opposing teams to 23 points per game and 372 yards, both ranking them 3rd in the conference. Their rush defense only gave up 120 yards and they took away 16 interceptions, also both ranking them at 3rd in the conference. If there was a dent in the Mustang defense armor, it was their pass defense, which gave up 252 yards, 10th best in the LSC. Their Red Zone defense also struggled a bit, giving up points 76% of the time (9th).
Probably the biggest question facing Midwestern heading into 2011 will be who replaces Zach Eskridge at Quarterback. Will it be junior Brandon Kelsey? Kelsey filled in for Eskridge a bit last season and in the Kanzaa Bowl. He finished the season with 252 passing yards, 0 TD’s and 3 Interceptions. Or could it be Tulsa Transfer Shavodrick Beaver? The former 4 star recruit obviously has the talent to play, but will he be eligible? We’ve heard rumors both ways, but nothing confirmed. If it’s not Beaver or Kelsey, could the Mustangs look to one of the handful of freshman QB’s on their roster? At this point your guess is as good as ours. But from the look of things, if it’s not Beaver, the Mustangs may be in for a tough year. One good bit of news for the Mustang offense is that they’ve got one of the best offensive linemen in the nation coming back in Amini Silatolu. He’ll be joined by Hang Gilley, who was first team LSC South last season to anchor the Mustang line.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Mustangs didn’t take too much of a hit. The LB corps will be led by Matt Ellerbrock and Ty Duncan, who combined for 141 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. DE Kevin Birdow had 39 tackles and 4 sacks last season, and will be back to anchor the MSU defensive line. DB Neiko Conway and his 3 interceptions return to help try and improve a defensive backfield that struggled a bit last season. LB Gadrian Muse transferred in from Blinn and appears to be ready to contribute in his first season at Midwestern State. One good very good thing plays into Midwestern's hands this year - they face Abilene Christian, West Texas A&M and Texas A&M-Kingsville at home...a huge advantage.
Out With The Old
QB Zach Eskridge – 2nd LSC South
LB Austin McDaniel – 2nd LSC South, 46 tackles, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks
OT Ricki Gomez – HM LSC South
C Bobby Parsons – HM LSC South
K Jose Martinez – HM LSC South, 12/15 FG’s
DT JD Corcoran – HM LSC South, 57 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6 sacks
RB Marcus Mathis – 573 rushing yards, 4 TD’s, 109 receiving yards
WR Justin Rideau – 34 catches for 366 yards, 2 TD’s
WR Desmond Ratliff – 29 catches for 294 yards, 2 TD’s
FS Ryan Craven – 75 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT
LT Amini Silatolu – 1st LSC South, Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year, 2011 Preseason All America
LG Hank Gilley – 1st LSC South
WR David Little – 1st LSC South, 63 catches for 689 yards, 7 TD’s
RB Lester Bush – 2nd LSC South, 598 rushing yards, 9 TD’s
RB Keidrick Jackson – 429 rushing yards, 7 TD’s
LB Matt Ellerbrock – 71 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 2 sacks
DE Kevin Birdow – HM LSC South, 39 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks
LB Ty Duncan – 70 tackles, 4 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1INT
DB Neiko Conway – 38 Tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT
WR Jared Freeman – 18 catches for 176 yards, 1 TD
QB Brandon Kelsey – 252 passing yards, 0 TD’s / 3 INT, 267 rushing yards, 2 TD’s
WR Edgard Theliar – 11 catches for 246 yards, 1 TD
P Gunter Elenburg – 39.7 yard average
In With The New
LB Gadrian Muse (Blinn) – 54 Tackles, 3 TFL, 3 Sacks
WR Houston Tuminello (Louisiana Tech) – 10 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD
QB Shavodrick Beaver – (Tulsa) – 62 yards passing, 102 yards rushing, Rivals.com 4 star recruit
All Conference Candidates
LT Amini Silatolu
LG Hank Gilley
WR David Little
RB Lester Bush
RB Keidrick Jackson
WR Sheldon Galloway
LB Matt Ellerbrock
DE Kevin Birdow
LB Ty Duncan
DE Tim McGill
DB Neiko Conway
All American Candidates
LT Amini Silatolu
Week 4 – Texas A&M-Kingsville. In what appears to be the first real test for Midwestern State, the Javelinas travel to Wichita Falls for Family Day. If the Mustangs are looking to preserve their spot near the top of the LSC, they’re going to need a good showing against one of the best the conference has to offer.
Week 8 – Abilene Christian. The Wildcats will travel to play Midwestern in their Homecoming game during the final stretch of the 2011 season. After this game, the Mustangs only tough matchup will be against West Texas A&M at home. If they can pull off a win here, the final few games could be prepping for the playoffs.
Best Case Scenario – 9-1
While this would be VERY difficult to pull off, it’s not quite as impossible as it sounds when you look at Midwestern’s schedule. They face all three of the big teams – West Texas, Kingsville and ACU at home, and their out of conference schedule looks very manageable with Missouri S&T and Northeastern State, their first and last games of the year.
Worst Case Scenario 6-4
The Mustangs have lost quite a bit of firepower on offense in one of the better LSC QB’s of the last decade in Eskridge, as well as skill position players and a couple of good offensive linemen. If for some reason they can’t find much help at Quarterback and the offense sputters a bit, a 6-win season seems about as bad as it could get from the usually reliable Midwestern program.