Talk about a surreal night.
Last night was pretty tough to grade this game but I have more than enough material to do so. The game kicked off about the time I was leaving DFW and going to East Texas for the weekend. Watching a high school game in Van (near Tyler) I was kept abreast of the situation by Russell McClean (hat tip to him) with the calls and the play by play. I had my quota of adrenaline for the night, that is for sure.
The Post Mortem is going to be a bit different than previous years. It is going to consist of 5 thoughts about all sides of the ball and the various dynamics of the game, then MVP’s for Offense, Defense, and Special teams. No Grading this year, just thoughts. So, here we go.
- The Lion defense was not good last night. It was not great. It was outstanding. The UNA offense drove the field for scoring opportunities 6 times by my count and only came away with 7 points. They also held an offense full of great players to only 300 total yards, and 80 of it came on one drive in the first quarter. The safety that was caused by an fantastic punt by Jake Viquez was a great example of the execution that both special teams and defense displayed last night. Chris Smith then crashed into the end zone to sack UNA’s Blake Hawkins and that score was huge, and no doubt we would have not won the game without it. It was the best defensive effort I have ever seen a Lion defense put up, I mean ever.
- The Offense was a completely different story. Dropped passes, turnovers that should have been scores, and drives that sputtered inside the red zone 3 times. I said we had to have Touchdowns to win this game, thankfully I was wrong about that. Luis Perez was trying to win the game and you have to give him credit for that, but the poor offensive play was mainly due to lack of execution and not making routine plays. I was also not a fan of the play calling. It was obvious that TAMUC was not going to impose their will on UNA’s front 7, but they kept calling the run plays to no avail. It was not until the end of the game where Perez got his groove back that the running game was being used to effectively get down the field because UNA was dropping more guys into coverage using the pass to set up the run.
- Special Teams was the close second to what won the game for the Lions. Shawn Hooks did a terrific job returning the punts and holding on to the ball. The two punter system that was implemented by featuring Jake Viquez and Tristan Perry is complete genius and shows the innovation of the Carthel Staff. HC Carthel had said at the end of the recruiting trail that picking up a guy like Perry who can throw as well as he kicks would be invaluable in keeping opposing defenses guessing as to whether a pass or booming kick is coming. Also hat tip to the great Billy Watkins for accurately predicting that Viquez would be a big part of the punting game. (The guys knows kickers.)
- The officiating was incredibly shabby on both sides but it got Commerce more than UNA, and they were critical calls at critical times. Luis Perez completed his first two passes only to have them waived off by another official. UNA also got some penalties called on them that were completely wrong. For a game this big you need the absolute best officials you can get and so often that has been a chore ranging from refs that are incompetent to outright hostile. Not saying the refs caused us to only score 8 points, but throw them into the mix and they are certainly not helping either team.
- This is the best quality win in the Carthel era, and it is also the best team we have ever played in the Carthel era. Better than West Texas in 2013, much better than Angelo in 2014, better than Ferris State in 2015 and better than Grand Valley State last year. The Lions were able to put up an average of 32 points against those teams. What makes this the best win is all the things that went wrong and how hopeless the situation looked at one point, this team still pulled it together to take down the defending national finalist on the road to open the season. That my friends, is special.
Offense-Shawn Hooks. Aside from the amazing punt return that set up the game winning drive, he led all receivers with 6 yards for 43 yards as well and played better than any skill player on the team. A gritty and rewarding effort for the shifty one from Dangerfield.
Defense-Brucks Saathoff- Guy played incredible. 10 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss that killed 3 UNA drives. This kid is really growing into a fantastic player.
Special Teams-Kristov Martinez-The first field goal was easy. Now, imagine this. You are the smallest guy on the field and your team puts the entire game on your shoulders. You promptly knock through the game winner with no problem. Martinez is growing ice in his veins, and that is exciting as he also moved to 3rd on the all time kicking scoring list. (He is coming for you Billy Watkins)