Greetings, Lion fans, and after two pre dawn airplane flights, and being reminded of just how cold it can get in the Texas Panhandle, we’re back at it to break down the upcoming match up between the Lions of Texas A&M-Commerce, and the UT-Permian Basin Falcons.
Thoughts on last week…..while not a pretty win, the Lions showed some real grittiness in taking over a tied game in the fourth quarter and earning a victory. Red shirt sophomore Miklo Smalls might have had his best game of the year. While not producing gaudy statistics, he produced something far more important- a win. Smalls put this team on his back and drove them to victory.
He was not alone, though. The Lion offensive line was outstanding again, paving the way for close to 200 yards rushing, and despite giving up three sacks to a high pressure Buffalo defense, kept Smalls upright at the right time. The Blue Gang rose up and produced 4 turnovers, including a pick six from senior defensive back/linebacker Felipe Chambers. Special teams produced a blocked punt which sophomore running back Jemal Williams, playing on the punt return team, returned for a score.
The game was not without a few low lights. An old and unwelcome friend, the personal foul penalty reared its ugly head again, and put the Lions in some shaky situations.
Overall, though, it was a true team effort, and showed the Lions toughness and resiliency. Now, onto take a look at our friends from the Midland-Odessa area.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Offensive Line-6’3″ 290 lbs.
Falcon Front Seven-6’2″ 232 lbs.
The Falcons are a bit undersized up front, but are definitely a ball hawking group, having forced a total of 21 turnovers. They are led up front by senior linebacker Chris Hoad, 6’0″ 228 lbs., who has an eye popping 131 tackles, 0f which 59 are solos. Senior linebacker Keegan Gray, 5’11” 240 lbs., follows with 58 stops, 27 solo tackles. Sophomore defensive end John O’Kelley, 6’4″ 225 lbs., has 3 1/2 sacks on the year.
The Lion offensive line is anchored by red shirt junior Amon Simon, 6’5″ 290 lbs., and center Christian Hernandez, 6’1″ 285 lbs.. They’ve overcome some injuries and position shuffling, to give the offense the fuel it needs to thrive.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-The Lions are led on offense by the aforementioned Miklo Smalls, who was awarded his third offensive Player of the Week award by the LSC. Smalls is 156-225 for a 283 yards per game average, with 19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a long completion of 73 yards. He also has 226 yards rushing and one touchdown.
Red shirt junior Antonio Lealiiee leads the Lion rushing attack with 622 yards on 86 carries, scoring 6 touchdowns, and a long of 56 yards. Lealiiee started the season fourth on the depth chart, but has stepped to limelight due to injuries, and has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
The passing game load continues to be shared among several Lion receivers. Junior Chance Cooper, 6’4″ 200 lbs., was a welcome return last week, with 6 catches for 63 yards. Overall this year, he has 21 catches for 337 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 73. Senior Ryan Stokes, 6’3″ 185 lbs., continues to lead the team with 33 catches for 474 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a long of 52 yards. Red shirt junior Kelan Smith, 6’1″ 170 lbs., returned to the spot light, with 4 receptions for 46 yards and the game clinching touchdown. For the season, he has 21 catches for 183 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 24 yards.
The Falcon back line by freshman free safety Donta Roberts, 5’10” 160 lbs., who appears to play bigger than his size would let on. He leads the Falcons with 3 interceptions, as well as having 46 tackles, 25 of which are solo.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-There are not enough good things that can be said about the Lion kicking game last week. Winds can be quite stout and tricky in the Panhandle, and junior Andrew Gomez, the Lions punter, handled it very well, with 5 kicks for a respectable 36.8 yard average. Red shirt junior placekicker Jake Viquez, despite having an extra point blocked, was still four of five on point afters, and did not have a field goal attempt.
For the season, Gomez has 31 punts for a 40.6 yard average, with a long of 58 yards. Viquez is 7 of 9 on field goal attempts, with a long of 44 yards.
Sophomore wide receiver Kobe Robinson, 5’7″ 155 lbs., is the Falcons leading punt returner, with 7 returns for an 11.4 yard average, with a long of 30. Freshman receiver Caleb Forrest, 5’8″ 170 lbs., leads the Falcons in kick returns, with 15 returns for a 15.9 yard average, and a long of 24 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-The Lions season has come down to this. Win out, and they’re in a great position to get to where they want to go, the playoffs.
The first step comes this week in what again is the biggest game of the year. The UT-Permian Basin Falcons, while undersized defensively, produce a lot of turnovers. They also surrender a lot of yards, particularly rushing, which appears to give the Lions a real advantage. Billy Riebock has brought what the Commerce fans have not seen recently, a real threat in the running game, which brings more balance to the offense, and makes them extremely difficult to defend.
The Lion checklist offensively doesn’t change much. 1. Protect Miklo Smalls, and let him work his magic. 2. Ball Security-The Falcons have lived off of the turnover. 3. Poise and Patience-The Falcons have certainly watched a lot of game film on the Lions, and will see that at times, they have been susceptible to the personal foul penalty, and loss of focus and coolness. David Bailiff will certainly address that this week. 4. Pound the Rock-Antonio Lealiiee has come into his own as the leader in a vastly improved Lion running game. The Falcons give up almost 175 yards per game.
Finally, Number 5, and this one is for us, Lion fans. In what is the final home game of the regular season, let’s pack The Hawk, and really make what is traditionally a tough venue for visiting teams even more so.
See You At The Hawk.