Monday, August 7, 2017

Western New Mexico 2017 Outlook

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Previous 2017 Previews

2016 Recap
On the surface, WNMU's debut season in the LSC was not very successful - just three total wins and a blowout loss to former RMAC rival Fort Lewis.  But a closer look at five of their LSC losses paint a different picture.  The Mustangs trailed Texas A&M Commerce by just one score late into the fourth quarter, outgained MSU 467-398 and trailed by one score in the fourth quarter, led TAMK 13-7 in the third half, outgained TSU 515-450 before losing by 3 and let a 30-16 lead with 2:04 slip away, losing to WTAM in a game they comfortably controlled until falling apart late in the game.

The offense was pretty good, averaging 444 yards and 31 points in LSC play.  WNMU led the LSC with 321 yards passing, but the run game was not as strong, averaging 123 yards per game and 3.5 per carry.  The defense allowed 427 yards and 31 points (both 8th in the league).  LSC opponents were able to rush for 207 yards per game (5.2/carry) and throw for 220 yards per game.

Individually, Javia Hall threw for 2,939 yards and 24 TDs on the season, and LSC receiver of the year easily led the LSC with 80 receptions for 1,025 yards and 9 TDs.  Freshman DeAndre Williams ran for 623 yards and 6 TDs.  Defensively, Dominic Barry (2nd LSC) led the way with 103 tackles and 7.5 TFL, while Ian Davis had 4 interceptions.

2017 Outlook - Offense
Javia Hall returns at QB, and DeAndre Williams at RB.  The Mustangs however must replace three starting OL and the top 4 WRs (combined 205-2,720-23).  Xavier Ayers will be hard, if not impossible to replace.  Expect Hall to put up even bigger passing numbers and Williams to improve as well with a full season of work.

2017 Outlook - Defense
The defense should be better.  Eight of the top eleven tacklers are back.  Up front Leo Marin, Aaron Leauma, Connor Mowat, James Lee and Tariq Myrics combined for 190 tackles, 20.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks. The linebacking corps is led by Dominic Barry, Mazin Khalil and Tyler Butler who had 148 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 3 sacks.  The secondary returns Ian Davis, Kyle Foote, A.J. Smith, Collin Grady and Immanual Dangerfield.  They had 160 tackles, with 7 interceptions and 7 passes broken up.

2017 Outlook - Special Teams
The current roster (8-2-2017) does not have last years kicker/punter Tyler Vargas listed.  He was 30-35 on PATs, 8-15 on FGs and had a avg of 41.0 on punts and 57.5 on kickoffs.

2017 Outlook - Non-Conference Schedule
The traditional opener against San Diego is once again in order.  The Toreros went 10-2 last year, losing the second round of the FCS playoffs to North Dakota State.  USD outscored their opponents 36-16 and outgained them 441-267.  The runninng game was good, averaging 175 ypg and 4.4 ypc, while the passing game was even better, averaging 266 ypg and a QB rating of 153.5.  Anthony Lawrence is back at QB, as is top target TE Ross Dwelley (70-843-10 TD), but the top 2 RBs are gone (they had 1,898 of the teams 2,098 yards).  Defensively, 6 starters will have to be replaced.

Week 3 sees Western Oregon (4-6) come to Silver City.  The Wolves upset FCS Sacremento State to start the season and knocked #24 out of the rankings in week four, but could only muster up 2 wins over hapless Simon Fraser the rest of the season.  WOU was outscored 23-33 and outgained 339-393 on the season.  Phillip Fenumiai and Nick Duckworth return at QB.  Fenumiai (1,387 yds, 10 TDs passing , 311 yds rushing) started all 10 games last year, but Duckworth (1,092 yds, 9 TDs) also saw plenty of playing time.  The run game was weak (88 ypg) and WOU must replace their top rusher (Fenumiai was second).  Torreahno Sweet picked up 220 yards as a freshman.  Paul Revis was far and away the leading WR, catching 70 passes for 1,057 yards and 8 TDs.  Keoni Piceno and Wesley Gray also return after combining for 59 receptions, 677 yards and 2 TDs.  Bo Highburger, Tyler Johnson and Nathan Jones are the returning defenders.  The trio combined for 226 tackles, 29 TFL, 7 sacks, 2 INTs and 8 passes broken up.

The final non-conference game is in week 8 as Fort Lewis (4-7) also comes to town.  Last year FLC embarrassed the Mustangs 52-14.  That started a modest 3 game win streak, giving the Skyhawks confidence heading into this season.  Bo Coleman (1,509 yds, 19 TDs, 650 yds, 9 TDs rushing) returns at QB.  He torched WNMU, going 20-29 for 233 yards and 5 TDs.  Also back is PJ Hall at running back.  Hall was second on the team with 807 yards on the ground.  Arealous Hughes and AJ Shaw are the leading receivers, combining for 31 receptions, 538 yards and 8 TDs.  Defensive linemen O.J. Thompson, Michael Molina and DBs Dre Cortez and Tyrell Thomas return for the defense (combined 160 tackles, 19 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 5 INTs, 11 passes broken up).  For the season, FLC had a 29-26 scoring edge, and outgained opponents 420-334.

Best Case Scenario
If the Mustangs could find a way to win a few close games that they let slip away last year, win their D2 OOC games and beat UTPB, they could go 5-6 this year.

Worst Case Scenario
Maybe they still can't win the close ones, and continue to struggle out of conference.  If so, they could find themselves at 1-10.

Somewhere in between.  The Mustangs should split their D2 OOC games and surprise a couple of LSC teams and finish with a moderately better 4-7 record.

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