Greetings, Lion fans. In this week’s edition of the Pre Snap Read, we take a closer look at what looks to be the de facto Lone Star Conference Championship game, vs. the fourth ranked Tarleton State Texans.
The Lions are coming in on a roll. With last week’s 54-28 thrashing of Midwestern State, they seem to be peaking at exactly the right time. Let’s take a little look back at how they have gotten there.
LOOKING BACK-The Lions had their best overall performance of the year. Red shirt sophomore quarterback Miklo Smalls was LSC Offensive Player of the week for the second time, completing 19 of 27 passes for 186 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also had 26 rushing yards on 5 attempts.
The Lion offensive line was dominant again, allowing no sacks, and paving the way for 324 yards rushing. Red shirt junior Antonio Lealiiee was the beneficiary of that performance by the offensive line as well, rushing for 170 yards on 18 attempts.
Smalls spread the wealth among the recievers, with senior Ryan Stokes, senior tight end Tyler Guice, freshman Eric Hebert, and Lealiiee, all had touchdown grabs, and 5 others had receptions. That kind of balance and diversity makes the Lion offense difficult to stop.
Dominque Ramsey led a great defensive effort by the Blue Gang with two interceptions. Senior Terrell Collins, and red shirt junior Alex Shillow led in tackles, and after some adjustments on the opening Midwestern drive, put the clamps on, and allowed the Lions to cruise to an easy victory.
Now, let’s take a deeper look at the Texans….
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lions Offensive Line- 6’3″ 290 lbs.
Texans Defensive Line-6’2″ 262 lbs.
The Lions, while having the size advantage, are in for a real battle this week. Senior defensive lineman BJ Jefferson, 6’1″ 245 lbs., is coming off another performance that earned him LSC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He leads the Texans in tackles with 53(22 solo). Junior linebacker Ronell Wilson follows with 38 tackles (15 solo), and senior safety Jai Edwards, 6’0″ 200 lbs., has 36(16 solo).
The Texans are very aggressive and adept at rushing the passer, with 12 sacks so far this season. They have also forced 12 turnovers with 7 interceptions.
The Lion offensive line is really starting to jell. Senior left tackle Amon Simon, 6’5″ 290 lbs., anchors the line, red shirt junior Christian Hernandez, 6’1″ 285 lbs., has settled in nicely at center, while red shirt sophomore Travis Dafft, 6’1″ 255 lbs., has moved to guard and has made the position his own.
If the Lions are to pull off the upset, the offensive line will have to play their best game of the season. They are more than capable of doing just that.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS-The Texans are a real ball hawking group, with the aforementioned 12 interceptions, very athletic, with some good size, in addition to safety Jai Edwards, junior Benjie Franklin, 5’11” 185 lbs., has 3 of those picks. Seniors Prince Robinson, 6’0″ 190 lbs., and Ed Hayes, 6’3″ 195 lbs., round out a secondary that can shut down any passing game.
The Lions, while not posting gaudy numbers, are very effective, while spreading the wealth among a host of receivers and running backs. Senior Ryan Stokes, 6’3″ 185 lbs., leads the Lions with 22 catches for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a long of 52 yards.
Junior Chance Cooper, 6’3″ 205 lbs., has 15 receptions for 271 yards, 3 touchdowns, with a long of 73 yards. True freshman Eric Hebert, all 5’4″ of him, has really made an impression lately, with 2 touchdowns on only 7 catches, and several good runs on reverses and counters. Junior Darrian Owens has shown the penchant for the big play, with a 77 yard strike against Kingsville, and has broken some nice runs on end around plays.
Antonio Lealiiee leads the Lion rushing attack with 417 yards on 53 carries, with two touchdowns, and a long of 56 yards. He has really shouldered the load when needed due to injuries. Miklo Smalls has given the Lions a running threat at quarterback, with 126 yards on 35 attempts, with a long of 22 yards. The staff here at The Wire like to say that Smalls “runs with a purpose.” Meaning, unlike other mobile quarterbacks, Smalls isn’t running just to run. He forces defenses to account for him as a threat to make plays with his feet.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED- Junior Andrew Gomez continues to impress with his outstanding punting, averaging 43.2 yards on 20 kicks. Junior Jake Viquez continues his fine placekicking, 7-8, with a long of 44 yards. He also has a knack with the pooch kick, creating two turnovers that put the Lion offense in great field position. In last week’s game with Midwestern, it was a botched play by the Mustangs on a pooch kick that led to a Lion touchdown, and set the tone for a rout.
Prince Robinson is the Texans kick returner, averaging 29.6 yards on 3 returns. He also has 8 punt returns for a 10.75 yard average.
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-Simply put, the biggest game of the year, the last time the Lions will face Tarleton as a conference opponent. The Texans are undefeated at 6-0, and own a victory over an FCS opponent, Stephen F. Austin. They’re a very good team, they know it, and like to remind their opponents of it. They play right up to the echo of the whistle, and are not above an extra shove or elbow to those facing them.
The key for the Lion offense this week remains the same. Keep Smalls upright in the pocket, and allow him time to spot receivers downfield. Open some holes for Lealiiee, and use the new found strength in the run game to their advantage.
Most of all, the Lions have to avoid the turnover, and prepare for some tough sledding. It won’t be an easy task moving the ball against a very good defense, but it can be done. One play at a time.
See You Saturday.