Greetings, Lion fans, and after what was an impressive Homecoming win over Western New Mexico, the Lions are on the road to the Texas Panhandle this week to face the Buffaloes of West Texas A&M.
The Lions come into this game after overcoming a sputtering start last week against the Mustangs. After Western cashed in a Lion turnover to tie the game, red shirt junior Dominique Ramsey electrified the Lion faithful with a 91 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and they never looked back. Despite a pair of interceptions, red shirt sophomore Miklo Smalls was outstanding again, going 19-31 for 283 yards and a pair of scores.
The Blue Gang, while not producing a turnover, did a great job of making the Mustangs one dimensional. allowing a paltry two yards per rushing attempt, while bending, but not breaking under the Western aerial assault.
All in all, a game in which the Lions took care of business. Now, onto the Buffs.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lions Offensive Line-6’3″ 290 lbs.
Buffs Front Seven-6’2″ 245 lbs.
The Buffs, while undersized up front, have forced a whopping 18 turnovers. They are led in tackles by junior linebacker Hayden Dennis, 6’2″ 225 lbs., who has 88 stops(33 solo). He is followed by fellow linebacker, Frank Honang, 5’10” 203 lbs., and a senior, who has 87 tackles(38 solo).
The Lion offensive line are really starting to jell as a unit, allowing only one sack last week, and opening plenty of holes for the run game to exploit. They are anchored up front by red shirt junior Amon Simon, 6’5″ 290 lbs., and Richard West, a 6’6″ 285 lb. red shirt sophomore.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-While not possessing a great deal of size, the Buff back line is a ball hawking group, with 8 interceptions collectively. They are led by sophomore Tobias Harris, 5’9″ 180 lbs., who is also outstanding on special teams. Senior Mike Jones, 5’10” 205 lbs. , lends experience to this group.
The Lions balanced attack is led by red shirt junior Antonio Lealiiee, with 77 carries for 560 yards, with 5 touchdowns, and a long of 56 yards. Miklo Smalls has been a very effective runner as well, with 50 carries for 225 yards, and a long of 22 yards.
Smalls has been an extremely efficient passer this season, with 140 completions in 196 attempts for a 241.5 yard per game average, with 5 interceptions, 18 touchdowns, and a long completion of 73 yards.
The wealth continues to be spread a great deal in the Lions receiving corps, and the most beneficial have been senior Ryan Stokes, 6’3″ 185 lbs., who has 31 catches for 440 yards, with 4 touchdowns, and a long of 52 yards. Junior Chance Cooper, 6’3″ 205 lbs., has 15 catches for 274 yards, with 3 touchdowns, and a long of 73 yards.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-The Buffaloes have had their struggles in the kicking game, with freshman Aaron Coash, who is averaging 36.6 yards on 43 punts, but has had two blocked. Junior Mauricio Gonzales is but 1 of 5 on field goal attempts, with a long of 27 yards.
The Lion return game has been outstanding this season, led by what is arguably the best returner in all of Division 2, Dominique Ramsey. Ramsey only added to his legend last week with a 91 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
On punt returns this season, Ramsey is averaging 15.6 yards on 13 returns, with 1 touchdown, and a long of 55 yards. On 11 kickoff returns, he is averaging a game changing 37.5 yards per return, with the aforementioned touchdown and long of 91 yards. He is a legitimate threat to score any time he touches the ball.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-This is a match up the Lions can definitely exploit. The Buffs are giving up almost 160 yards per game rushing, which has developed into a real strength for the Lions. They are undersized defensively, and have thrived on the turnover to give their offense a short field on which to work.
In order to succeed this week, the Lions must focus on ball security and force the Buff defense to stay on the field for an extended stretch, and put pressure on a leaky run defense. The offensive line must continue to keep Miklo Smalls upright, and allow him to work his magic downfield.
As explosive as the Lion special teams have been this year, this week, they have a real opportunity to make some hay against a group that has had problems protecting the punter, and that doesn’t seem to have a very strong kicker.
Bottom line, this is a very winnable game for the Lions, and a must win.
See You Saturday.