“It’s like deja vu all over again….” Yogi Berra, New York Yankee catcher and Hall of Famer
Greetings, Lion fans, and if it seems like we’ve been here before, well, we have. The game we’ve been patiently waiting for ever since the disaster in October. Time to take a look at the #2 region seed Tarleton State Texans, and see what the Lions must do in order to advance in the playoffs.
OVERVIEW-A renewal of a Lone Star Conference rivalry, it’s become a rather bitter one. The Texans are one of those teams that are good, they know they’re good, and they like to let their opponent know how good they are.
In the previous matchup in October, one thing stood out- 18 penalties for 168 yards. That’s right, 18 for 168. Whatever momentum the Lions would build, was wiped out by an official’s flag. It was a night of complete and utter frustration. To quote Lion great Blake Cooper when asked about the officiating, he said, “I have no words.” Example: On four separate occasions, Lion defensive backs were flagged for lining up in the neutral zone(Author’s Note: In over 40 years of watching football, I have never seen a defensive back called for that particular penalty. Not once). Another Lion great, Billy Minor, explained that both offensive and defensive players on the perimeter of the formation ask the official for a spot to ensure that they have both lined up correctly, and that did in fact occur. Then came the flag.
That being said, let’s turn our attention to the matchup that matters, this coming Saturday in Stephenville. Round 2 of the playoffs. Where it counts.
TALE OF THE TAPE-
Points- 33.8 ppg
Rushing- 146.6 ypg
Passing- 224.4 ypg
Total- 371.3 ypg
Turnover differential -8
Skills Position Size Average- 6’2″ 208 lbs.
Offensive Line Size Average- 6’3″ 278 lbs.
Opponent’s Combined Season Record- 65-63 (5-5)
Points- 15.7 ppg
Rushing- 87.9 ypg
Passing- 197.4 ypg
Total- 285.4 ypg
Turnover differential +13
Front Seven Size Average-6’3″ 243 lbs.
Secondary Size Average- 6’0″ 196 lbs.
Opponents Combined Season Record- 54-66 (4-6)
The Texans have played five teams with a winning record, the Lions six.
CAST OF CHARACTERS- The Lions are led on offense by Kane Wilson, 136-230 for 1,849 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Wilson also has 9 rushing touchdowns. Despite the two ill advised throws resulting in pick sixes for Minnesota Duluth, Wilson was effective in keeping the offense focused and in control.
The Lion rushing attack has been surprisingly effective this year, led by Ovie Urevbu, with 763 yards in 140 attempts, with 6 touchdowns. Carandale Hale has chipped in with 565 yards on 112 attempts, with 5 touchdowns. They, along with reshirt freshman Nate Davis, have provided Matt Storm and his staff a variety of ways to attack opposing defenses.
Marquis Wimberly continues to lead a deep and talented Lion receiving corps with 53 catches for 723 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Ryan Stokes follows with 35 receptions for 616 yards and 4 touchdowns. Matt Childers continues to impress with 25 catches for 274 yards and a touchdown, and the always reliable Vincent Hobbs continues his late season surge with 27 receptions for 254 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The hard hitting Texans defense is led by linebacker E.J. Speed, with 78 tackles (42 solo), linebacker Ronell Wilson with 70 tackles (32 solo), free safety Jai Edwards with 68 tackles (47 solo) and cornerback Prince Robinson with 54 tackles (36 solo). Robinson also leads the team in interceptions with 5, and the other cornerback, Devin Hafford, has 4.
The Texans, much like the Lions, have been an aggressive, in your face, pressure defense, resulting in 5 sacks by Speed, and 4 1/2 by linebacker Gary Moore.
While not having a great deal of size, the Texans are quick, fast, aggressive, and will turn their opponent over, as the Lions found out last October. Their work will be cut out for them.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS- In a season full of big moments, none come bigger than this one. A chance to avenge a humiliating loss to a bitter rival. A chance to advance in the playoffs, and take another step to the ultimate destination. Chances like these don’t come around very often, and the Lions have one here.
That being said, the anger and disappointment that the Lions must feel has to be set aside. Hype, emotion, and adrenaline will only take a team so far. After the initial rush and release of emotion, the game comes down to what most of them do- focus, discipline, and execution.
The objectives that the Lions must achieve in order to win this Saturday. are these:
Maintain Focus-As has been said earlier, the Texans are good, and they like to let you know about it, especially when they get a lead, even a small one. They are smart and well coached, and as has been said, play “right to the edge.” They have seen the game films, and know that the Lions have been susceptible at times to trash talk, and the occaisonal shove or push. The Lions must shut that out, and concentrate on one play, one series, one quarter, one half at a time. The best revenge is at the end of the game when you have more points than the other guy.
Rise Above It-The Lions must avoid the frustration that comes with adversity, and what at times, can be considered questionable officiating. They have to remain calm and move on to the next play and next situation. The game is 60 minutes. The Lions need to play for 60 minutes.
Ball Security-This is absolutely essential. The Lions must avoid turning the ball over at all costs. Do not give the Tarleton offense a short field. Keep the Lion defense rested. Make the simple plays. Example-without the two turnovers, and making the routine catches, the Lions blow out a previously undefeated Minnesota Duluth team, and hold them without a touchdown.
Remember this, Lion fans…..going into the fourth quarter last October, the Lions were trailing by only six points, despite everything that happened. This is a very winnable game.
Time to unleash the beast Lion fans. Come along for the ride.
I’ll see you Saturday in Stephenville.