Greetings, Lion fans, before we begin the in depth look at how the Lions stack up against the defense of the Thunderwolves of Colorado State-Pueblo, let’s do a quick review of the highs and lows of the victory over Eastern New Mexico:
LOOKING BACK-The Blue Gang defense did an outstanding job of limiting the Greyhound rushing attack to 283 yards. How is it such a great job when you surrender almost 300 yards? When the opponent averages 453 yards, and they’re forced to throw the football, which they do not want to do. They proved they can hang in for a full 60 minutes, being on the field for 82 plays and almost 40 minutes of clock time. They also produced two turnovers.
Miklo Smalls was spot on again this week. Completing 85 percent of his passes(12-14, 235 yards), Smalls was again cool under pressure, and added 32 yards rushing on 8 attempts, never panicking when he did so. For the season, Smalls is completing 77.7 % of his passes, as well as 13.4 yards per attempt. That accuracy will keep moving the chains and producing scores.
Despite EJ Thompson’s injury (he’s expected back in 1-2 weeks), the rushing attack was shouldered by Antonio Lealiiee with 5 attempts for 58 yards, and Carandale Hale chipped in 19 yards on 9 rushes, plus a touchdown.
The offense, despite only having 41 plays total was very productive, putting up 45 points. Chance Cooper continued his hot streak, with 3 receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremiah Bridges came on scene with a bang, 6 catches for 77 yards, and two touchdowns. In addition, the offense was slightly more run oriented this past week with 27 runs and 14 passes.
All in all, a very encouraging performance.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Offensive line-6’3″ 290 lbs.
T Wolves Defensive Line-6’2″ 252 lbs.
The Lions welcomed back red shirt sophomore Travis Dafft, and instead of another line shuffle, kept red shirt junior Christian Hernandez at center, moved Dafft to right guard, and the line never missed a beat, giving Smalls plenty of time to spot receivers downfield.
The Thunderwolves operate out of a traditional 3-4 set defensively. Sophomore Trey Botts leads the defensive line, a 6’3″ 305 lb. nose tackle. Senior inside linebacker Kyle Rosenbrock leads in tackling, with 27(13 solos) followed by senior outside linebacker Maxie James, with 22 stops (13 solos). Senior defensive end Jackson Wibbels has 16 tackles(7 solos).
The Thunderwolves are rather smallish in the front seven, but are a very active and aggressive group.
THE BACK LINE/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Movers and Shakers-6’1″ 200 lbs.
TWolves Back Line-6’0″ 191 lbs.
The Wolves have some size in the secondary, beginning with senior strong safety Jamaal Sears, 6’2″ 201 lbs. Junior corner back Marcus Lawrence is 6’2″ 189 lbs. They have the ability to blanket smaller receivers.
With the aforementioned EJ Thompson injury situation, the Lions will turn to a running back by committee approach, using Antonio Lealiiee, Carandale Hale, and junior transfer JT Smith. This has been the situation to a degree this season in sharing the wealth among the runners, but look for the carries to be distributed even more this week.
Chance Cooper has come into the 2019 on fire, with 8 catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns, including a beautiful 73 yard strike from Smalls last week. Sophomore Jeremiah Bridges has been a big surprise, with 10 grabs for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Despite drawing more intense coverage, senior Ryan Stokes, the Lions home run hitter from 2018, has made 5 grabs for 69 yards, including a 52 yarder against Western Oregon that set up a Lion score.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-Red shirt junior Jake Viquez has taken the placekicking duties for the Lions, and made it his own. He was 3 for 3 in field goal attempts last week, including a 43 yarder into a stiff southern breeze.
Andrew Gomez continued his outstanding punting, with 5 punts for a 40.6 yard average.
They will both need to be on the top of their game this week. The Thunderwolves are led by senior Isaiah Diggs, with 4 returns for 97 yards, with a long of 45. Senior Amu Aukusitino has had 4 returns for 31 yards, with a long of 14.
Junior DJ Penick has 4 kick returns for 58 yards, with a long of 22. Senior Tevin Donnell has 3 kick returns for 51 yards, with a long of 26.
Despite not producing a score, Colorado State-Pueblo has a capable and dangerous return game.
BY THE NUMBERS-
Lion Offense-39.5 ppg
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-Thus begins the gauntlet of the Lions schedule. The #20 Thunderwolves are smarting after a 34-14 loss at home to Colorado School of Mines, and are sure to give the Lions an all out effort this week.
The Lions have a real chance to win this game, provided they continue with the balanced attack. Mines last week gashed the TWolves defense for 201 yards passing and 200 yards rushing.
It won’t be an easy chore, however. The Thunderwolves came into Commerce and laid a 23-13 beating on the defending champions in what best can be described as a torrential downpour. They’re sure to be eager to erase the sting of the defeat last week, and to let the Lions know that last year was no fluke.
This game is shaping up to be a real battle, the biggest test of the Lions so far this season. If you’re not able to live stream the game, or tune in to the greatness that is Brock Callaway and Charlie Chitwood, stay tuned to The Wire for quarterly score updates and analysis
Here we go, Lion fans.