Overall thoughts-This game played out the way I thought it would in regards to it being close, but I was expecting more of a back and forth affair rather than one team being down and come storming back. As I was watching Kyle Washington of ASU walk into the end zone and then putting us down 28-10, I was thinking, “this is not good, but if any team can come back, this is the one that can.” A lot of outside and inside observers have noted that while last year’s team was overall a more talented team with a lot more flash and just raw talent, this team has a mental toughness and an attitude that just has kept them on top. When Richard Cooper returned his 88 yard kickoff for a touchdown, that was a real turning point, but the true turning point was when Angelo got a field goal after they picked off Harrison Stewart and looked like they had 6 points, but were held to 3. The decision to go for it on 4th down down by 5 with just over 7 minutes left was the game winner but also the catalyst for how the game would play out. The 4th down stop deep in Lion territory was something that is very hard when you have a 6’6 pure athlete like ASU’s Kyle Washington just trying to punch it, but as a Sam Houston State fan was nice enough to say about our defensive line, they are pretty darn good. Long and short, everyone from Coaching Staff to special teams did their job and the result was a tooth and nail, hard fought win.
Offense-You have to give the unit an A. Everyone from the QB’s to the skill players made routine plays and the mistakes that were made were not made in an egregious manner or anything that could not have been overcome by a total team effort. When Harrison Stewart took a hit and had to come off, Gabe Rodriguez stepped right in for 3 plays and converted on a 4th down pass as well that led to a score. Harrison Stewart is now pushing toward the 2,500 yards for a season mark passing and Richard Cooper sealed the win with the 44 yard run that got the offense out of the shadow of the end zone and put it away for good, and Harrison Stewart learned from last time by doing a great job escaping the pressure that ASU was putting on him, and I cannot say enough about the REC’s, they were the saving grace of the game with their big plays and great outside blocking.
Defense-I go with an A plus. Throw stats out the window, you stop ASU 3 times that could easily been touchdowns and intercept Kyle Washington early in the game and keep ASU at bay long enough to help your offense get back on top, that warrants an A plus. Like I said in the pre-game, ASU is still a good team QB’d by a great player. Nothing to hang their head about. Oh yeah, and those two calls that resulting in targeting ejections were complete garbage and we have had some truly awful officiating this year. Just glad they did not making any game deciding calls like they did against Delta State. I just do not have enough good things to say, oh and props to Gage Windsor and Devar Brown who both blocked PAT’s.
Special Teams-Solid B. I would grade with a curve, but the wind is just part of the game. It does not matter where we play, if it is West Texas or North Texas, the wind blows sometimes longer and harder than we would like, you still have to make plays. Chase Thrasher was solid on Kickoffs and punts as well, Kris Martinez had a PAT blocked for what reason I do not know, and Thrasher had a FG try blocked. I loved the trick play that was tried,and have no problem with it, but Thrasher saw a rush and did what most would do, he let it fly and avoided the potential safety or very deep turnover. These things happen. Coverage was great though and of course, our return game was great as always. Hat tip Richard Cooper for the run back that got us back in the game.
Coaching-Colby Carthel and his staff are just a model staff. The way he has prepared the past 3 teams for success is just something I cannot describe. He always has his team ready to go to war with anyone, anyplace, anytime. Yesterday was no exception, and he did not underestimate a 4th seeded team. The 2013 team, Colby’s first team in Commerce was probably just as talented as this one, but they did not know how to finish and win games, and that takes time and mentality, and for every week the past 3 seasons, we have seen that consistently. This group was well prepared and that goes to coaching. It starts at the top and goes from there. A plus.
Offense-Lance Evans and Darby Smith. These guys just made HUGE plays that were so critical. Also, Evans got open on virtually every play, and Smith used his speed to get seperation and did a good job running North/South.
Defense-Kevin Mederias, welcome to the MVP circle. He had 9 tackles, 2 for loss, and harassed Washington all day long and played with a fire to win. He also had a pass break up or two. His Father flies in from California to see his son play, and his Dad should be super proud of his son’s “get after it” performance.
Special Teams-Richard Cooper brought the group back from the dead with an 88 yard kickoff return. That was the turning point and pumped the juice back into the Stadium and team. I feel had that not happened the outcome of the ballgame would have been different.