Welcome, readers to a very happy analysis of what was one of the finest team efforts that I have ever witnessed, and one of the best in Lion football history. You have reason to believe, Lion fans! Now, onto the game recap…….
Offense-What else needs to be said? Luis Perez was who we thought he was, to borrow a phrase. In the pregame look the #1 goal for the offensive line was to keep Perez upright, and keep the passing pocket clean. Mission Accomplished! While maybe not having the statistical light show that we’ve come to enjoy this season. Luis was extremely effective, had plenty of time to choose open receivers, and most importantly, DID NOT TURN THE BALL OVER. The #2 goal was for Carandal Hale and E.J. Thompson was to be effective running the ball against what was a top 5 defense against the run in the entire county. The results: 103 total yards, balancing the offense, as well as being excellent receivers out of the backfield, making the Lions extremely difficult to defend. The biggest advantage? When the Lions needed to control the ball and run clock, they were able to do so.
Defense-There’s not enough superlatives to describe the job these young men did Saturday. Facing the 3rd ranked rushing offense, with a line that averaged 50 pounds bigger than them, they did exactly what they needed to do. In what is becoming a habit, they gave up a touchdown on the first drive, adjusted, then buckled down. In the second half, they were lights out, allowing only a field goal. For us Lions from back in the day, you could say it was Blue Gang worthy.
Minnesota State’s leading rusher did have 139 yards, but every one of them were hard fought. They did not allow the big play other than the initial drive, and were always in the right place at the right time.
The secondary did allow a long touchdown pass on the first drive, but other than that, they were very effective in run support, and provided constant pressure on the Maverick receivers, and hit them hard whenever the ball came near. The game clinching interception was the icing on an outstanding job.
Special Teams-Boy, were they ever special! As was said this past week, there is no better kicker under pressure than Kristov Martinez. So far this season, when called upon, he has won games against North Alabama and Central Washington, and made several crucial kicks along the way. There was perhaps none bigger than the 48 yarder Saturday that gave the Lions the 24-21 lead. The Minnesota State announcers were absolutely flabbergasted that the Lions would attempt such a long field goal. Yeah, right.
Tristan Perry was the best he’s been all year. At the most critical point of the game, when the Lions were forced to give the ball up with roughly a minute and a half left, Perry came forth with his biggest kick of the year, pinning Minnesota State at the one yard line. It allowed the defense to bend, but not break, forcing them to use more clock than they wanted to. It was a moment of, as I like to say, “old school football”.
The only blemish was the fumbled punt right before the end of the first half, with the fumbled punt that allowed a short Maverick scoring drive. It would be their last. It was more than erased by Buck Wilson’s electric 80 yard touchdown return. It surely got this author out of his chair and yelling at his computer screen.
Coaching-Just a wonderful, wonderful, job of coming up with an effective game plan by Colby Carthel and his staff. Getting a group of young men ready to play for a third consecutive week on the road was a thing of beauty. These coaches have been able, in a very short amount of time, to get the Lions to believe and buy into the program. This was a complete team effort in every phase. Personal Foul penalties were kept to a minimum, and the Lions appeared to be well prepared, and ready from the start.
The Final Word-In what so far was the biggest game in Lion history, they were at their best. They will need to be better next week. In viewing Coach Carthel’s post game interview, one thing said caught my attention: “The teams we have beaten were 34-1″. 34-1. Think about that. Three higher seeded teams, two in the Top 5 in the nation, all long road trips on their turf, and the Lions won them all. Which, for this author, begs the question that Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling asked during their incredible run to the 2004 World Series Title…..”WHY NOT US?”
Why not, indeed.