Greetings, Lion fans, and in this week’s edition of the Notebook, we’ll take a closer look at the Buffaloes of West Texas A&M. In last week’s victory over Western New Mexico, the run defense of the Lions stood tall, allowing just over 2 yards per rush attempt. While they did surrender 315 yards passing to the top passing team in the Lone Star Conference, the Blue Gang turned up the heat on the pass rush, and came up with an outstanding seven sacks, as well as several quarterback hits and pressures. Overall, a very good performance.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Front Six(D Line & Linebackers)-6’0″ 259 lbs.
Buff Offensive Line-6’3″ 308 lbs.
West Texas operates their attack behind one of , if not the biggest, offensive lines in the conference. They are led up front by red shirt freshman Josh Campbell, 6’4″ 335 lbs., and sophomore Parker Hanna, 6’5″ 292 lbs. The big offensive line provides ample protection for the quarterback as well as enabling a smaller running back to literally hide behind his blockers and pick his holes to run to.
The Lions are led up front by sophomore defensive end Ronathon Elmore, 6’5″ 285 lbs., and senior defensive tackle Chris Williams, 6’1″ 285 lbs. They, along with a rotation involving red shirt junior Elijah Earls, senior Pierre Leonard, and senior Peyton Searcy, have developed into a real run stifling unit, while being able to pressure the passer. They will certainly be tested by a balanced West Texas offensive this week.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-The Buff offense is paced by senior running back Duke Carter IV, 5’9″ 185 lbs., who had 535 yards on 126 rushes, with five touchdowns, and a long of 25 yards. Red shirt freshman Jarrod Compton, 5’10” 185 lbs., has 239 yards on 40 attempts, with three touchdowns, and a long of 44 yards.
Sophomore Nick Gerber, 6’1″ 184 lbs., directs the Buff offense. Gerber is 132-239-4 for an average of 189.8 yards per game, with 12 touchdowns, and a long of 67 yards.
Much like the Lion receivers, the riches are spread around the West Texas offense. Senior Juwan McCall, 6’2″ 188 lbs., has 25 catches for 361 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a long of 55 yards. His size and speed present match up problems for just about any defense. Senior Semaj Mitchell, 5’10” 175 lbs., isn’t far behind, with 25 catches for 335 yards, with 5 touchdown, and a long of 48 yards. Junior Chase Sojka, 6’1″ 165 lbs., contributes 21 receptions for 234 yards, and a long of 38 yards.
The Lion secondary has had to make some adjustments due to injuries. Red shirt junior Alex Shillow is out at least two more weeks with a hand injury. Senior Sammy Gray, 5’11” 180 lbs. filled in and had a solid game. He was well supported by the familiar cast, senior corner LA Dawson, 6’0″ 180 lbs., red shirt junior corner Kader Kohou, 5’11” 190 lbs., and red shirt senior defensive back Jaylon Edwards-Cooper, 5’11” 175 lbs.
An old an unwelcome friend, the big passing play, still hurt the Blue Gang in spots, but they were able to overcome it. This week will most certainly be a test as West Texas is one of the most balanced offenses in the conference.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-The Buffaloes have a very explosive return game, led by sophomore Tobias Harris, 5’9″ 180 lbs., who has returned 18 punts for an incredible 25.7 yard average, with 1 touchdown, and a long of 90 yards. He also has 12 punt returns for a 25.8 yard average, again with a touchdown, and a long of 85 yards. He is a definite threat to score anytime he touches the ball.
The Lion kicking game is in good hands with red shirt junior Jake Viquez, who is 7 of 9 with a long of 44 yards. His pooch kicks on kickoffs have been extremely effective, resulting in multiple turnovers, giving the Lion offense a short field on which to work.
Junior Andrew Gomez continues to excel in his punting duties, averaging 41.3 yards per kick, with a long of 58 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN/THE VERDICT-This is another stop on the road to where the Lions are wanting to go. The Buffaloes have a huge offensive line, and a balanced attack, but it isn’t anything that the Lions haven’t seen before.
The Lions hold two distinct advantages:1. Run Defense-West Texas is surrendering almost 160 yards per game, while the Lions run game is peaking, averaging just over 169 yards per game. With the offensive line establishing the line of scrimmage, Lion runners should be able to find an opening. 2. Special Teams-The Buffaloes have had two punts blocked, and have been inaccurate and of limited range in field goals.
The checklist for the Lions doesn’t seem to change a lot. Keep Miklo Smalls upright. Protect the football-The Buffs thrive on turnovers. Get the running game established and pound the rock.
Defensively, limit the big play. The Blue Gang has displayed enough talent so far to be able to shut down an opposing running game, and make them one dimensional. They have the abliltiy to do that here.
It’s real simple, Lion fans. Win three, and they secure a playoff berth in Super Region Four. The first step in the three remaining begins this week in Canyon.
See You Saturday.