“Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.” Paul W. “Bear” Bryant
Greetings, Lion fans. Well, here we are again, on the verge of another extremely important Lone Star Conference matchup with the Buffs of West Texas A&M. The Blue Gang showed up huge last week in the 55-7 over Western New Mexico, returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Let’s take a closer look.
OVERVIEW-Once again, the Blue Gang find themselves in a familiar position, outsized by their opponent, with a star to put the brakes on. The Buffs are not particularly explosive offensively, but there is talent there. It will be a challenge. The Buffs average 6’0″ 197 lbs. at the skills positions, and are rather large across the front, averaging 6’3″ 279 lbs. .
Conversely, the Lions average 6’0″ 178 lbs. in the secondary, and 6’1″ 235 lbs. in the front seven. The Lions have been able to make up for a lack of size with aggressiveness, speed and overall talent. They will need them all this week.
CAST OF CHARACTERS-The Buffs are led by their do everything star, red shirt junior Duke Carter IV, who leads the Buffs in rushing with 185 attempts for 901 yards with 8 touchdowns. He also has 11 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt Sophomore Justin Houghtaling leads the Buffs in passing, with 66 completions in 104 attempts for 653 yards, with 4 touchdowns and an interception. While not throwing a great deal downfield, Houghtaling is very accurate, and a big, athletic quarterback.
The Buff receivers are led by junior Semaj Mitchell, with 29 catches for 259 yards. Markel Steward has 19 receptions for 245 yards.
The Lions continue to be led in tackling by senior Brucks Saathoff, who, by the time he wraps up his career, has a chance to go down as one of the all time great Lion defenders. He has 73 tackles (34 solo), followed by Mark Westbrook, who has 55 (36 solo) ,and one of the most consistent and active Blue Gang members, Neema Behbahani with 49 tackles (23 solo).
Senior defensive end Michael Onoha continues to be a terror to opposing Lone Star Conference offenses with 5 and a half sacks.
The Lions continue to absolutely dominate special teams, with Tristan Perry averaging 42.5 yards per punt, and the best kicker of all in college football(at least in my humble opinion), Kristov Martinez continuing his pinpoint accuracy, connecting on 8 of 11 attempts. His kick against Midwestern State after the safety completely flipped field position and changed the game.
Where the Lions have excelled, though, have been in the return game. Reggie Kincade is absolutely electrifying every time he touches the ball. Averaging 41.7 yards per return with 2 touchdowns, including one of over 100 yards, he brings fans to the edge of their seats every time the ball is kicked deep.
Dominique Ramsey has excited Lion fans returning punts, averaging almost 14 yards per return with a touchdown. He does take chances, often picking up the ball on a bounce at a dead run. He makes fans hold their breath every time.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS/FINAL VERDICT-The Lions are seemingly on a defensive roll right now. While the offense has sputtered at times, the defense has played on a very high level. And they’re starting to show a knack for turning the other team over.
The Buffs have a good deal of offensive talent, but are undersized, and are definitely a run first type of team. The Lions, if they maintain their focus and discipline, should win this game.
How do they maintain this focus? There’s a little known quote from the legendary coach John Madden that describes it perfectly.
“Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.” John Madden
There it is Lion fans. Shut out the noise and all the things going on around the game, and just focus on the task at hand. One play at a time, one tackle at a time. The rest will take care of itself.
It’s Homecoming Week, and it looks to be a sunny, beautiful day in Commerce. One of those afternoons that like nowhere else in college football, at any level. A magical one.
See You At The Hawk