Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Week One Game Previews

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Thursday night's games went about how we expected, just more extreme than the predictions.

Buffs get off to rough start with 35-6 setback  - Amarillo Globe News
No. 11 Buffs fall 35-6 at No. 4 Colorado State-Pueblo in Season-Opener - WT Athletics
Lions Open Season in Record-Breaking Fashion Thursday - TAMC Athletics

LSC Scoreboard

East Texas Baptist at Texas A&M-Commerce

Here's and understatement: the Lions return a lot of firepower on offense.  QB's Tyrick Rollison, Harrison Stewart and Deric Davis combined for 3,634 yards and 35 TDs passing.  WR's Vernon Johnson, Seth Smith, Hayden Marsh, Jordon Jenkins, and Taylor Peasha caught 186 passes for 2,804 yards and 29 TDs.  At running back, Ki-Janaven Garrett is back after rushing for  665 yards and 3 TDs as a freshman.  Up front, 3 starters return, but they must replace Andrew Weidel and Trevor Goodale, both honorable mention All-LSC last fall.  Some new faces to watch on the offense are OL Elwood Clement, WR Ricky Collins and some guy named Joe Bergeron.

The defense has a few more holes to fill.  Gone are four of the top five in tackles - a combined 240 tackles, 31.5 TFL, and 16.5 sacks.  The cupboard is far from empty.  Up front All-American Charles Tuaau (22 TFL, 12.5 sacks) and Brandon Turner (9 TFL, 5.5 sacks) are back.  At linebacker, Cole Pitts (62 tackles, 7 TFL) and Corey Childs (25 tackles, 4.5 TFL) return as starters.  The secondary is the most experienced area on defense, with starters Ronald Fields (52 tackles, 14 passes broken up), Pablo Vasquez (52 tackles), and Traven Johnson back.

Don't look for ETBU to offer much resistance.  The Tigers are picked 4th in the 6 team American Southwest Conference and went 3-7 last year, winning their first two games, then losing seven in a row, before edging a 1-9 Sul Ross squad (that lost to TAMC 51-6 in the season opener).  ETBU was good on offense last year (455 yards, 32.3 points per game), but bad on defense ( 478 yards, 42.4 points).

This should be a blowout and a great opportunity to get Bergeron fully integrated into the offense.  TAMC 63-17.

Game of the Week
West Texas A&M at Colorado State-Pueblo
WTAM Game Notes
CSUP Video
WTAM Audio

There will be a lot of new faces on the field for West Texas this season, as the Buffaloes lost 11 first team All-LSC performers (plus 2 second teamers, and 2 honorable mentions), including record setting quarterback Dustin Vaughan.  Junior Preston Rabb looks to get first crack at replacing Vaughan.  Anthony Johnson (87-1,294  14 TDs) leads the returning WRs.  Jarrian Rhone (37-371  4 TD) and Jeremy Watson (17-224  3 TD) should see a signifcant bump in their production.  Transfer running backs, Venric Mark (Northwestern) and Derrick Thomas (Boise State) will provide a significant boost to the ground game.  Austin Carson and Arthur Fatu are returning starters on the line, while 2013 starter Emory Atterberry is second on the depth chart at left tackle. Newcomers to the OL include Solomon Normore (originally committed to New Mexico out of JC in 2013), former UCLA Bruin, Stan Hasiak, Alex Mitchell and Shaq Davis.

Defensively, seven starters must be replaced.  Alex Tucci (17 tackles, 5.5 TFL) and LePear Willrich (50 tackles, 11 TFL) return up front, with LB Alex Olson (25 tackles) and CB Torian Oakley (44 tackles, 8 passes broken up, 2 Ints) lining up behind them. Juco transfes David Tameilau and Iosia Iosia will add depth up front, with LBs Elijah Lagafuaina and Syracuse transfer Markus Pierce-Brewster helping out immediately.  The secondary looks to fill its holes from within.

Colorado State-Pueblo is coming off an 11-1 season, with seven returning starters on offense, including QB Chris Bonner (3,413 yds, 33 TDs), WR Paul Browning (1,155 yds, 11 TDs receiving), running backs Cameron McDondle (848 yards, 8 TDs) and Marche Dennard (371 yards, 3 TDs), and four starters on the line.  The Thunderwolves averaged 509 yards and 42.7 points per game last year.

The defense has seven returnees with 40 or more tackles in 2013.  Darius Allen, the Gene Upshaw Award winner in 2013 is the leader.  Allen led the nation with 15.5 sacks and also had 23.5 tackles for loss.  As a unit, CSUP gave up 393 yards and 19.8 points per game.

This series has instantly become one of the top non-conference matchups in D2.  CSUP has won both regular season contests (26-24 in 2011 and 44-34 in 2012), while WT knocked off the #1 Thunderwolves in the NCAA quarterfinals 34-16 in 2012.  Look for CSUP to continue to take the regular season games, with a 34-17 win.

Saturday Games
Humboldt State at Texas A&M-Kingsville
Live Stats
TAMK Video
TAMK Game Notes
HSU Game Notes
Humboldt State went winless in 2013, getting outscored by an average of 32.2-15.5 and outgained by 455.9-328.1 yards weekly.  All-American running back Nick Ricciardulli returns after being injured in week two last year.  In 2012, he rushed for 1,579 yards and 12 TDs, leading HSU to a 7-4 record.  True freshman Robert Webber is slated to start at QB and has Chase Krivashei (96-915  3TDs) and Kelechi Nwadibia (57-796  2TDs) as his top returning targets.  Defensively, Silas Sarvinski and Alex Markarian lead the All-Beard team and combined for 18 TFLs and 9 sacks.  Overall, the Jacks return 6 of their 7 top tacklers and should show improvement over last year's numbers.

The Javelinas had a rough year as well, going 2-8 with a an 8 game losing skid to end the year.  Juco transfer Trey Mitchell is slated to get the nod at QB to start the season, with newcomers Joe Te'o and Shawn Vasquez joining Marquise Cardinal and Greg Pitre in the running back rotation.  The graduation of Robert Armstrong leaves Musa Mahmud and Patrick LaFleur as the leading returnees at WR.  The key to the offense will be how much improvement the offensive line shows - last year 4 freshmen and sophomores started most of the games and that experience should pay dividends down the road.

Defensively, TAMK must replace 3 starters in the line.  Nose tackle Josh Toki is the lone returning starter, and could see Augafa Vaaulu (New Mexico State out of HS) join him in the interior of the line.  Look for returnee Henry Greathouse and newcomers Darius Lively (Louisiana-Monroe) and Will Juarez at the end positions.  Both starters return at LB - Brandon James and Mark Savere combined for 174 tackles with 15 TFLs last year.  The secondary also has experience with Trevor Pesek, Anthony Forker, Lamont Hills, Kelechi Amushie and Joe Crowe returning.  T.J. McCullough returns from injury and transfers Sidney Sanders and Korey Alston join the group as well, providing more depth than the Hogs had last year.

This is an interesting matchup of teams expecting to show improvement over last year's results.  A non-roster factor that could have an affect is the weather.  The expected high today in Arcata is 82 degrees with a 34% humidity level.  Game time temperature at kickoff Saturday 86 degrees with a humidity level of 71%.  This could be the 12th man for the Javelinas, and help them open with a 28-17 win.

Eastern New Mexico at New Mexico Highlands
ENMU Game Notes

The surprise team of the LSC looks to add to their LSC-leading 6 game winning streak as they face long time rival, New Mexico Highlands.  The offense will be lead by returning starter Jeremy Buurma.  Buurma, threw for 1,569 yards and 11 TDs with just 3 interceptions earning him honorable mention All-LSC honors.  His top WR, Jacob Johnson (2nd All-LSC, 32-571  2 TD) is back, along with 1st team All-LSC Jordan Wells (652 yds  3 TDs) and E'lon Spight (262 yds  3 TDs) in the backfield.  The O-Line returns Maanaima Lang (HM All-LSC), William Jurek and Jordan Wade, but loses John Mendoza and Kevin Smith, both second team all-conference.

Linebackers Benjamin Langford (2nd All-LSC), Seth Bailey, and Julian Yearwood (both HM All-LSC), and defensive backs Kevin Reaves (1st All-LSC), Ibrahim Maiga, Connor Brinton, and Darrelyn McCloud bring a good deal of experience to those positions.  Up front there were a few more losses, but Joshua Bounds and Tanner Melson are back.  All-in-all, 8 of the top 9 in tackles are back from a defense that was second in the LSC in yards allowed (364) and third in points allowed (26.8).

New Mexico Highlands is coming off a 2-9 season, losing their final 8 games.  After splitting the first four games, the Cowboys lost 5 consecutive games by a touchdown or less.  They will have to replace almost all of their top skill players from last year.  Especially missed will be QB Emmanuel Lewis, who threw for more than 7,000 yards with 46 TDs the past two seasons.  The defense returns just 3 of the top 11 in tackles from last year from a squad that gave up 387 yards and 34.4 points per game.

The Greyhounds should not stumble out of the gate this year.  They return the majority of the squad that gelled last year, bringing home a surprise co-LSC championship.  Their sights are on another title and a possible playoff run.  ENMU 35-14

McMurry at Houston Baptist
HBU Video
HBU Audio
HBU Live Stats
HBU Game Notes

Aaahh.... McMurry....I guess they are technically part of the LSC this year, so we will cover their games as well.  A quick glance of last year indicates a mixed bag for the War Hawks.  A 3-8 record, closing the season out with two wins.  A closer look is not so kind.  The three wins came against Oklahoma Panhandle State, Wayland Baptist and Southern Nazarene.  In the 8 losses, McMurry gave up an average of 59.8 points and 585 yards.  Missing from the offense is QB Gabe Rodriguez.  Rodriguez threw for 3,237 yards and 43 TDs as a freshman.  He is rumored to be sitting out this season, but look for him back in the LSC in the future.  The only QB on the roster that is not a true freshman is Matthew McHugh, but he has no collegiate game experience under center either.  Running backs Chris Simpson and Paxton Grayer (combined 1,666 yards, 14 TDs rushing, 58-455  3 TD receiving) and wide receivers Jeret Smith (61-846  10 TD) and David McHugh (27-206  3 TD) do return to provide some offensive threats.  The defense returns just 3 of their top 11 in tackles.

They will face Houston Baptist, an FCS school in their second year of existence.  The Huskies beat the teams they should have last year (Wayland Baptist, Oklahoma Baptist and Texas College), and lost badly to everyone else (Sam Houston, Abilene Chrisitan, Incarnate Word and Texas A&M-Commerce) in an abbreviated inaugural season.  The Huskies averaged 24.4 points and 327 yards per game, while allowing 37.1 points and 389 yards.  Interestingly, last year was a development year, so none of the results and stats  count, nor did HBU players use any eligibility, but it did count for the players' 5 year NCAA clock.   New FBS additions this spring include DE Rion Gurnell (LSU), LB Aaron Benson (Texas), and DBs Tyler Stephenson (Baylor), Eric Amoako (Oregon), Deon Hall (Houston) and La'Travien Gee (Oklahoma State).

Had the Warhawks not lost so many players from last year, this game might have been a toss-up.  As it stands now, look for HBU to win comfortably.  HBU 35-7.

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