Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Game Previews - Week One

Win Slips Away - Kale Steed, Amarillo Globe News
Washington leads Rams to season-opening win - Paul Harris, San Angelo Standard Times
Hounds pound Highlands 40-10 in season opener - Mathhew Asher, Portales News Tribune

LSC Football Recap - Week 1 - LSC Office
No. 12 Rams Use Big Second Quarter to Beat Oklahoma Panhandle State 52-31 - ASU
Kyle Washington - A Harlon Hill Trophy Candidate - ASU
No 22 Lions Notch 200th Victory In Memorial Stadium with 48-17 Rout of Adams State - TAMC
Opportunistic Gridiron Hounds Sprint Past Cowboys in Explosive Second Half - ENMU
Buffs Come Up Short in Season-Opener 27-24 to No. 19 Azusa Pacific - WTAM

The long wait is over and it is time for LSC Football.

LSC Football Power Poll

  1. Angelo State - Won a playoff game for first time since 90's but had to walk a tightrope to get there.
  2. Texas A&M-Commerce - Can the Lions reload on offense?
  3. Midwestern State - QB play could move Mustangs up or down in the power rankings
  4. Eastern New Mexico - Spight is gone, but Burma and four starting OL return.
  5. Tarleton State - a whole lot of offense, a .500 record
  6. West Texas A&M - pivotal season for the Buffs
  7. Texas A&M-Kingsville - Will the Hogs rise from the cellar?

Some quick comments on the 2014 season.  LSC fans used to get riled up when MIAA fans (ie. Pitt State and Northwest Missouri) would deride the lack of defense in the LSC.  Last year, no one could contest an assertion such as that.  Offensively, six teams (out of 8 total) averaged more than 36 points and 440 yards per game.  Defensively, every team allowed more than 28 points and 370 yards weekly (McMurry gave up 52.6 and 476 respectively).  Even the lone NCAA playoff representative, Angelo State, gave up 93 points and 896 yards in two playoff games.

The game previews are longer for the opening week as we try to incorporate more of a season preview than we will after the season starts.

Game Previews
New Mexico Highlands at Eastern New Mexico, 6:00 Sep 3
Game Notes
Live Video
Live Stats
The Cowboys went 3-8 last year, including a 21-44 loss to ENMU in the season opener.  Jeff Mills will be making his head coaching debut after serving as an assistant at Indiana State, New Mexico (Def. Coor.), Washington, Drake, Montana State, Nevada, Youngstown State and Idaho.

A running back like E'lon Spight (1,611 yds, 19 TDs) is never easy to replace, but four returning OL and QB Jeremy Buurma means the offense should continue to be successful.  Look for D'Maujeric Tucker and Kamal Cass put up good running numbers, and Aaron Johnson to be the favorite target when ENMU throws the ball.  The defense needs to fill some holes from the #1 LSC team in yards allowed (370) and #2 in scoring defense (29.2) as just 3 starters return, none in the secondary.

This looks like a game where the offense should run pretty smoothly, giving the defense a chance to find its legs.  ENMU 35-21.

Oklahoma Panhandle State at #13 Angelo State, 7:00 Sep 3
Game Notes
Live Stats
Live Video
Russell Gaskamp was been the head coach at OPSU since 2012.  In that time, the Aggies are 15-16, but 0-5 against D2 schools.  Last year's 7-3 record included losses to Adams State, Fort Lewis and Langston, and wins over Oklahoma Baptist, Texas College, Sul Ross, Southwestern, Bacone, SW Assemblies of God and Wayland Baptist.  The offense averaged 43 points and 519 yards per game, while the defense allowed 19.5 and 282 respectively.  Take those numbers with a grain of salt considering the competition.  This year's schedule is a definite step up in difficulty and will give the Aggies an idea of what an LSC future holds in store for them.  They will return 9 starters on offense, including 4 OL all the WR and RB Christopher McClendon (1,170 yds, 9 TDs rushing).  The defense returns 8 starters - 2 on the line, 4 LBs and 2 in the secondary.

The Rams have made the NCAA Playoffs 6 times.  In their previous follow-up seasons, they averaged 3 fewer wins.  Not once have they made the playoffs in consecutive seasons.  That being said, they come into the 2015 season with an excellent shot at breaking those trends.  Three starters return (Rance Layton, Tyler Hamilton and Quade Huckaba) to the offensive line and will be joined by transfers Reggie Harris and Erik Hamilton.  Despite losing three of the top four WRs, there is experience with Talon Smith, Donovan Thompson and Brett Rasberry back and transfer Mark Munson.  Ryan Beard and Trey Green are also back at RB.  Oh, did we forget Kyle Washington?  Barring injury, he should leave ASU holding nearly every passing record in Rams' history and could top 3,000 rushing yards as well.  All-American candidate Clayton Callicutt (20 TFL) leads an experienced defensive line (combined 26 sacks last year).  Not much statring experience behind them, with Dominique McCoy the lone returning starter.  However, several of the projected starters did give significant playing time last year.  If ASU is to make a repeat NCAA run, the defense will have to improve on last year's performance (32.8 points, 459 yards allowed per game).

Not sure why Angelo State schedules a game like this.  If teams are close in the regional rankings at the end of the season, this could really hurt their strength of schedule, which could be the difference between a bye week or opening the playoffs on the road.  Granted that's looking pretty far down the road, but it is a scenario that has played out in the past.  ASU 56-17

Adams State at #22 Texas A&M-Commerce, 7:00 Sep 3
Game Notes

Adams State finished 2014 with a 4-7 record, going 3-6 in the RMAC.  Included in those 7 losses was a 14-42 game at Eastern New Mexico.  The Grizzlies were a balanced offense, averaging 150 yards rushing and 230 passing per game, scoring 28.6 points per game.  Auston Hillmon was most of the offense,  throwing for 1,600 yards and rushing with 491 yards.  No running back had more than 81 rushing attempts and no receiver had more than 30 catches.  Defensively, ASC allowed 32.6 points per game, giving up 216 yards on the ground and 247 through the air.  The top players defensively are junior LBs John Reed and Wesley Brandon.

Looking through the game notes for the Lions, the focus is on last year, and team's prolific offense.  But the players providing most of that firepower (QBs Tyrik Rollison and Deric Davis, RB Joe Bergeron, WRs Vernon Johnson, Ricky Collins and Seth Smith) are gone.  Can the new starters come close to repeating those numbers?  Harrison Stewart and Gabe Rodriguez are listed as 1-2 on the depth chart.  Stewart threw for 1,800 yards and 18 TDs in 2013, while Rodriguez had 3,200 yds and 43 TDs for McMurry in 2013.  Richard Cooper (736 yds, 6 TDs rushing), Hayden Marsh (12-116 2 Td receiving), Lance Evans (8-100) look to assume starting roles after playing as reserves last year.  Up front just two starters (Elwood Clement and Shane Thompson) return.  For the defense, All-American Toni Pulu (19 TFL) and Tyree Barton return on the line, Charles Woods, Davarus Shores, and Cole Pitts (250 combined tackles, 33 TFL) are back at LB, and the secondary has some experience with Steven Baker, Darian Lindsey and Kevin Mederias returning.  That experience should help the Lions improve on 29.5 points and 450 yards allowed per game.

Similar to the criticism of Angelo State, this is not likely to be a beneficial matchup for the Lions when SOS is calculated for regional rankings, though it is likely that Adams State will win more games than OPSU.  Unlike ASU, the Lions are breaking in a new QB and other skill players, so that factors in as well (at least its not another D3 team).  TAMC 45-17.

#19 Azusa Pacific at West Texas A&M, 7:00 Sep 3
Game Notes in PDF Format
Azusa Pacific Game Notes

Live Stats
Monday Media Interviews

A week two loss to Humboldt State was the only blemish on APU's season last year and was enough to keep them out of the NCAA playoffs, so expect them to be focused and ready to play.  They will have to do with a largely new cast, as all-time leading rusher Terrell Watson, starting QB Chad Jeffries and leading receiver Tanner Henry all have to be replaced.  Not much experience on the defensive side as only 3 starters return.

And now for the enigma that is West Texas A&M.  Last year was the epitome of a mixed bag.  The good (17 point win at Angelo State, 21 point win over Midwestern State), the bad (29 point loss to C-SUP, 27 point loss to Commerce, two 10 point losses to Eastern New Mexico) and the ugly (Spanish-gate, no resolution to the NCAA investigation).  What can we expect for this year?  Well, the talent for a successful season is there.  The offense returns QB Preston Rabb who threw for 2,900 yards and 19 TDs, RB Geremy Alridge-Mitchell ( ), several veteran WRs (Jarrian Rhone, Dimitri Donald and Word Hudson 75-679 yds receiving), and three starters on the line (Stan Hasiak, Austin Carson and Shaq Davis).  The key to the season could be the defense which allowed 29.8 points and 424 yards per game.  There is plenty of experience, with 8 returnees who started at least 6 games last year (though not all will be starting this year).  Topping the list are linebackers Carter James and Patric Youngman (209 tackles, 16 TFL).

The Buffs are the hardest team to try and get a handle on heading into the season.  This will be a good test for them, facing a quality at home.  WTAM pulls away late to win 31-21

Texas A&M-Kingsville at Incarnate Word, 2:00 Sep 5
Game Notes
Live Stats
Live Video

The Javelinas start the Daren Wilkinson era off with a short road trip to visit former conference-mate Incarnate Word.  According to the UIW game notes, Myles Carr should be the starting quarterback.  Carr, a Fresno State transfer, will be making his first college start and first game action under center (he played sparingly at WR in 2013 and 2014).  Backing him up is Stevie Joe Dorman, a Colorado/Southern Arkansas transfer (and grandson of Sonny Detmer).  Both were highly rated out of high school, but are largely untested in game action.  Another new face to watch is WR Anthony Autry, a Georgia Tech/Hutchison CC transfer.  Returning for the offense are RBs Greg Pitre, Joe Te'o and Shawn Vasquez  who combined for 1,142 yards and 10 TDs last year, leading WR Jordan Thomas (41-547 3 TD) and four starters on the OL.  True freshman Luke Spies (Katy HS) is listed as a starter at guard.  The defense sports a new 3-4 alignment, with 3 returning starters and all with playing experience in 2014 and/or 2013.  Overall, the projected starters break down like this - SRs 4, JRs 11, SOPHs 5, FROSH 2, a pretty young team this year.

The Cardinals also won just two games last year, beating second year program Houston Baptist and winless Nicholls State.  They lost starting QB Trent Brittain after just 11 plays last year and the offense never got on track, gaining just 280 yards per game and scoring just 15.9.  As a freshman in 2013, Brittain threw for a school record 1,893 yards with 11 TDs and 8 Ints.  Also returning is leading rusher, Junior Sessions (462 yds, 4 TDs), TE Cole Wick (20-350 2 TDs receiving), WR Jordan Hicks (20-221 1 TD) and OL Nathan Thompson, the lone returning starter on the O-Line.  Defensively, the top four in tackles are back - LBs Padyn Geibler and Josh Zellers and safeties Robert Johnson and Adrian Norwood combined for 264 tackles, 11 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 Ints and 6 passes broken up.  Overall, the defense struggled as well, giving up 37.4 points per game, and allowing 430 yards per game (215 rushing and 215 passing).  All in all the Cardinals are also a young team with just 2 seniors slated to start for the offense, and 5 on defense.

(Since leaving the LSC and D2 for the FCS Southland Conference, the Cardinals have an 8-14 record.  Of their 8 wins, 2 came against NAIA teams, 2 against D2 teams, 2 against HBU, 1 against ACU in 2013, and 1 against a winless Nicholls State squad last year.)

The Javelinas have not lost to UIW in three games so far and UIW does not appear to have improved since leaving the LSC after the 2012 season.  Javelinas win a close one, 24-21.

Truman State at Midwestern State, 7:00 Sep 5
Live Stats
Live Audio

The Bulldogs were 6-4 last year, including a 5-3 record in the GLVC.  TSU ran the ball for 190 yds per game, threw for 157 and scored 22.5 points.  On defense, they gave up an average of just 17.8 points and 343 total yards (125 rushing, 217 passing).  They return 6 OL with at least 6 starts and QB Devonte Black (1,092 yds passing, 273 rushing), but no other skill position starters.  The defense has three returning starters in both the secondary and the defensive line.  They are coached by Greg Nesbitt, who begins his sixth year with a 25-29 record (his first 3 seasons were in the MIAA and TSU was 12-21, in two seasons in the GVLC, TSU is 13-8).  He was  the defensive coordinator at Central Missouri for three seasons prior to returning to Truman State.

The more things change, the more they stay the same in Wichita Falls.  Most teams would expect a drop-off in production when losing their all-time leading rusher, but the Mustangs spread the load around and actually increased their rushing yards per game and per carry in 2014.  So, look for more of the same offensively this year.  Three returning starters on the offensive line, the top four receivers and a cadre of running backs with experience should mean that the Mustangs will have one of the best offenses in the LSC and nation.  The defense returns four starters, including All-American candidate safety Marqui Christian and LB Dan Laudermilk who have been 1-2 in tackles for MSU the last two seasons.  The defensive line does not return any starters, but 8 transfers were brought in to help fill in the gaps.

Look for the new Mustangs to perform well and Midwestern State to open with a comfortable win.  MSU 45-21

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Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico