Greetings, Lion fans, and welcome to the Blue Gang Notebook. Formerly known as Getting Defensive, we here at The Wire were looking for something more fitting to the defensive preview.
For as long as I’ve been involved with ETSU/A&M-Commerce, I’ve always known the Lion defensive unit as the Blue Gang. Without a doubt, there have been the individual stars(Harvey Martin, Dwight White, Danny Kirk, Fred Woods, Curtis Buckley, Terry Bagsby, Danny Mason, Antonio Wilson come to mind), but the Blue Gang moniker, at least in my mind, stood for a mentality. Attack. Every yard, every play is a street fight. Never back down. When you play the Lions, know that you’re in for a battle. Thus, the name.
Now, let’s get to it……
OVERVIEW-The defense has been the star of the season so far, as anticipated. The staff here at The Wire expected with nine returning starters that they would be very good, but so far this season, Scott Power’s crew has been exceptional. After giving up 36 points to a very talented team from Kingsville, the Blue Gang has lived up to a very high standard and tradition. Last week was no exception. Lock Haven was completely shut down for the majority of the game. A big surprise has been the pass rush that they have been able to generate to supplement their outstanding speed. They will need to be their very best this week.
Midwestern State comes in with a balanced, high powered offense. They return several starters from last year’s playoff run, and rang up 47 against the Lions in 2017. They have at least six plays of 40 plus yards. They are very explosive, and very, very good.
TALE OF THE TAPE-
CAST OF CHARACTERS-The Mustangs are led on offense by senior Layton Rabb, 102-160, 1,675 yards, 18 TD’s. Vincent Johnson leads the rushers, 62-513, 7TD’s, followed by Donaven Lloyd, 15-109.
The receiving corps is led by Sophomore Juwan Johnson, 35-594, 3 TD’s, Xavier Land, 26-377, 3 TD’s, Kylan Harrison, 12-226, 4 TD’s, and Anthony Tennison, 10-225, 6 TD’s.
The Lions are led in tackles by Brucks Saathoff with 52(20 solo), Mark Westbrook with 35(24 solo),and Neema Behbahni with 31(11 solo), The Lions have 14 sacks, with Michael Onoha leading the pack with 5 1/2.
THE BOTTOM LINE-Make no mistake. This will be the biggest test of the Blue Gang this year. Midwestern is very balanced and can strike quickly. If they are able to limit Midwestern’s big plays, and force them to drive the ball the length of the field, the easier it will be for the Lions to get some stops and turnovers.
THE VERDICT-We all know the numbers. One win in the last six games vs. the Mustangs. A razor-thin margin in the conference race and possible playoff seeding. Losing a very tough game in Wichita Falls last season, only to have to return to the scene of the crime a year later(I wish someone would explain that one to me!). It all adds up to what could be a very tough night.
But take heart, Lion fans. The Lion offense that we’ve come to expect and have been frustrated with the early season struggles, has seemingly arrived. The defense is playing at a championship level. This is a very winnable game. The Mustang defense surrendered 374 rushing yards to Eastern New Mexico. Teams do not win championships by giving up an average of 230 yards per game. If the Lions limit the Mustang big plays, and don’t turn the ball over., they win.