NCAA Division 2 National Semifinal: 5 Thoughts on Harding University

Well Lion fans, here we are, still playing football the first week in December! There’s not a better time to be a Lion, and there’s no place better to be than this Saturday, 2:30pm, at Coach Ernest Hawkins Field, Memorial Stadium. The Magic is back in the ‘Merce.

With that said, here are 5 thoughts on the opponent this week, Harding University of Searcy, Arkansas….

Offense- With the Bison offense, the motto is, “Run first, run often, then run some more.” The Bison are second in Division 2 with 351.2 yards rushing from the Flexbone offense. They are very similar to Eastern New Mexico. They are led in rushing by Cole Chancey(200-1,153 yards, 13 TD’s), Zach Shelley(104-803, 5 TD’s), Grant Kimberlin(77-773, 3 TD’s), and Terrence Dingle(166-674, 18 TD’s). The Bison passing game is hardly noticeable. Terrence Dingle has attempted only 70-that’s not a misprint-70 passes all year(30-70, 671 yards, 4 TD’s). The receiving group is led by Andrew Dather(12-275, 1 TD), Grant Kimberlin(8-161, 2 TD’s), and Bobby Green(6-97, 1 TD). To say the Bison offense is old school, three yards and a cloud of dust, is an understatement. They are very effective at what they do, however. Their record is 11-3.

Defense-The Bison are +11 in turnover ratio, with 14 fumble recoveries and 16 interceptions. They are ranked 29th in total defense(307.0 yard), 23rd in rushing defense(110.7), and 63rd in passing(196.3). They are led in tackles by Sam Blankenship, LB, with 123, Christian Witt, DB, with 57, and Jacory Nichols, DB, with 55. It appears to be a solid unit, but nothing really stands out.

Special Teams-Tristan Parsley handles both the placekicking and punting. He is 15-21 in field goal attempts, with a long of 50 yards. He averages 37.5 yards in punts, with a long of 56. Frank Herbert is the leading punt returner with 13-94, with a long of 28. V’onte Williams leads the kick returners with 11-286, with a long of 53.

Season Summary-The Bison are currently riding an 11 game winning streak. They dropped their first three games of the year, to Henderson State, Southern Arkansas, and Southern Nazarene. They have turned it on since, culminating in a 16-14 last second win at Ferris State. Like the Lions, the Bison have played three straight games away from home.

Intangibles-Finally, the Lions, after what seems like a lifetime, are coming home for a playoff game. There is nothing quite like an afternoon game is Commerce. It is a setting like no other.

The Bison, however, are now playing their fourth consecutive road game. That can be trying on any team. An 11 game win streak is an 11 game win streak, however. This is a very disciplined, tough, football team that likes to run it and shorten the game. The Lions will have to be at their defensive best.

The Low Down-The facts are these…..This is the biggest game in Memorial Stadium history since the 1980 National Semifinal against Elon College. The Lions, on paper, seem to match up extremely well with the Bison. They have faced run heavy, option based offenses before.  They will need to be on top of their game in order to be successful.

The word here, is what we are seeing as fans of this football team is magical. They have continued to play better and better each week. It’s not often you see a staff and players bond, and work together so well. Soak it all in, Lion fans. This season, this coaching staff, this group of young men are very special.


Roar Back Here.....

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