Greetings, Lions fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Pre Snap Read. The meat grinder of the Lions 2019 schedule begins this week with what has become one of the biggest rivalries at any level of college football in the state, our friends from out west in Wichita Falls, the Midwestern State Mustangs. For the first time in in two seasons, the Mustangs make the trip east to Commerce. The Lions are finally home after a long two week road trip to Colorado , then taking the long bus trip to Rio Grande Valley, which culminated with a victory over the Javelinas. Before we break down this week’s match up, let’s take a quick look back at what contributed to a Lions steamrolling.
LOOKING BACK-God Bless Alex Shillow. The red shirt junior defensive back’s alert scoop and score with a blocked extra point attempt shortly before the half shook the Lions out of their collective funk, and they proceeded to roll up 23 straight points in crushing the Javelinas.
Red shirt sophomore quarterback Miklo Smalls was on target again, completing 14 of 20 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns, including a 62 yard touchdown strike to junior wideout Darrian Owens.
Junior running back Antonio Lealiiee had an outstanding night, totaling 145 yards on only 13 carries, and one touchdown on a 56 yard burst up the middle. Senior linebacker Terrell Collins led the Blue Gang with 11 tackles, 6 of which were unassisted.
The Lions defense in the second half literally shut down the Javelina offense. The second half this past week finally showed the Lions that we’ve been waiting to see.
There’s no rest for the weary this week, though. Now let’s break down the match up between the Lions offense and Mustang defense.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Offensive Line- 6’3″ 290 lbs.
Mustang Front Seven(D Line & Linebackers)-6’1″ 246 lbs.
The Lions definitely have the size advantage this week. The offensive line vastly improved in picking up the various blitz schemes that were thrown at them this past week. We can look for more of the same from the Mustangs, who, while not having great size, are very active and like to turn their opponent over. They are led up front by sophomore defensive end Melik Owens, 6’3″ 225 lbs., who has 28 tackles, 15 of which are solo. Senior Linebacker Tristan Shearman, 6’1″ 230 lbs., leads the linebackers with 28 tackle, 11 unassisted. They are surely looking to create havoc in the Lion backfield this week.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-The Lions backs and receivers have been a work in progress so far, and it is beginning to pay off. The offensive line is opening holes for Lealiiee, and the “by committee” approach that we here at The Wire have spoken of all year is starting to pay dividends. Overcoming injuries, offensive coordinator Billy Riebock and his staff have spread the wealth among Hale, JaQuorius and JT Smith, Jamal Williams, and Miklo Smalls also has provided a dimension at the quarterback position that hasn’t been seen around Commerce in some time.
The receiving corps is really beginning to blossom, with the aforementioned Darrian Owens making big play after big play, and senior Ryan Stokes made a statement with a big 52 yard touchdown catch. True freshman Eric Hebert, whose plays a lot bigger than his 5’4″ frame suggests, made several good catch and runs, despite losing a fumble.
They’re certainly going to be tested this week. The Mustangs back line is led by senior Marcus Wilkerson, a 5’10” 180 lb. defensive back, who has 28 tackles (12 solo). The rest of the secondary, sophmore Lance Hardman, 6’0″ 199 lbs., senior DaMarcus Wilson, 6’0″ 185 lbs. and senior Jaydon Cunnigan, 6’0″ 170 lbs. are an experience group with good size that can blanket a receiver.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-Junior Andrew Gomez continues his outstanding punting. Gomez has a 44.0 yard average on 16 kicks, and is able to flip field position in the Lions favor.
Red shirt junior Jake Viquez missed his first field goal attempt this season, but connected on his other attempt, and is 5 of 6 so far. He has done an outstanding job this year with his directional and pooch kicks, limiting opponent’s chances at a return.
Junior Juwan Johnson leads the Mustangs in kick returns, with 3 returns for a 15 yard average, with a long of 26. Junior Bryce Martinez leads in punt returns with 5 for a 21.6 yard average, with a long of 25.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-This is the first of the Lions real rivalry games. Finally, in what seems like an eternity, the Lions get the Mustangs in Commerce. The recent road trips to Wichita Falls reminds me of when the Texas A&M would travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. Something strange always seems to happen.
Two years ago the Mustangs dealt the Lions their only loss in the title season, a 47-42 shootout. Last season, it took two road trips, two stadiums and two days before the Lions escaped with a 20-19 win.
If there is an advantage for the Lion offense here, it is in the run game. The Lions are coming off a 260 yard effort in Kingsville last week, and the Mustangs are giving up an astounding 177.6 yards per game. Not many games are won like that.
This game is going to be won in the trenches. If the Lions are able to adjust to the blitz package Midwestern is sure to throw at them, they should be able to move the ball on the ground. This is going to be the kind of game that would make legandary Lion offensive line coach Boley Crawford smile.
It’s Hall of Fame and Letterman’s Weekend in Commerce. ESPN is coming to town. And the intensely disliked Mustangs of Midwestern are sure to put up a fight.
It’s about to get interesting, Lions fans. Time to go to work.
See You At The Hawk.