Greetings, Lion fans, this week we’ll take a look at the regular season finale with a longtime Lone Star Conference foe, the Rams of Angelo State.
First, though, the staff here at The Wire would like to express our sincere appreciation and thank you to all of our veterans on this Veterans Day. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy all of the freedoms we have and live the lives we lead without those willing to serve and protect our country.
The Lions are coming off of a dominant 44-13 victory over UT Permian Basin. The Lions totaled a whopping 461 yards total offense, and struck a great balance, with 179 yards rushing and 282 passing.
The Lion rushing attack was led by converted linebacker Jemal Williams, a 6’0″ 190 lb. sophomore, who had 108 yards on 18 carries, and a pair of touchdowns. The Lion running backs have taken on the appearance of a M*A*S*H* unit with all the injuries, but Williams has been very impressive in his time spent in the Lion backfield. David Bailiff and his staff have done an outstanding job instilling the “next man up” mentality, and have always seemed to know just the right adjustment to make at the right time.
Red shirt sophomore Miklo Smalls, 6’2″ 185 lbs., was nothing less than outstanding again last week, going 21-33 for 282 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. He also had 83 yards rushing on 11 carries. His mobility and ability to make plays with his feet haven’t been seen in a Lion quarterback in quite a while.
Red shirt sophomore Matt Childers, 6’4″ 180 lbs., made a big splash last week with 3 catches for 136 yards, and a 78 yard touchdown.
The Blue Gang turned in another stout performance, limiting the Falcons to 52 yards total offense in the first half, and never allowed them to get into a rhythm offensively. They are also becoming a turnover machine, with 4 interceptions last week, with red shirt senior Jaylon Edwards-Cooper, 5’11” 175 lbs., and red shirt junior Kader Kohou, 5’11” 190 lbs., picking up a pair apiece.
All in all, a good win. Now, onto this week’s showdown with the Rams….
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lions Offensive line-6’3″ 290 lbs.
Rams Front 7(D Line & Linebackers)-6’1″ 248 lbs.
The Rams are led in tackles by junior linebacker Kyle Hunter, 6’3″ 230 lbs., who has 87 tackles, 29 solo. He is followed by defensive back Leddy French II, 5’11” 200 lbs., who has 51 stops, 25 solo. Sophomore defensive lineman Dagen Dunham also has 51 tackles, 18 of which are solo.
The Rams have a very stingy scoring defense, and are adept at pressuring the passer, with junior defensive back Darrick Dickerson, 5’11” 190 lbs. totaling 4 quarterback sacks.
The Lion offensive line has really come into their own as the season has progressed, led by red shirt junior Amon Simon, 6’5″ 290 lbs., red shirt junior Christian Hernandez, 6’1″ 285 lbs., red shirt sophomore Richard West, 6’6″ 285 lbs., and red shirt sophomore Travis Dafft, 6’1″ 255 lbs., who have opened running lanes for the improved Lion rushing attack, as well as keeping Miklo Smalls in a clean pocket.
The match ups here look to be fairly even. The Lion offensive line will certainly be up for the challenge that the Rams present.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-The new and improved Lion rushing attack, despite the numerous injuries, has been more than ably manned by red shirt junior Antonio Lealiiee, 5’11” 210 lbs., who has 86 carries for 622 yards, with 6 touchdowns, and a long of 56 yards. Lealiiee was sidelined due to an injury himself last week, and the aforementioned Jemal Williams filled in.
Miklo Smalls continues to be the apparent MVP of the Lion offense, going 179-257 for an average of 243 yards per game, with 5 interceptions and 21 touchdowns. He also has contributed 349 yards rushing on 69 carries, with a touchdown, and a long of 23 yards.
The Lion receiving corps just continues to spread the wealth, making it a real headache for opposing defenses. Senior Ryan Stokes, 6’3″ 185 lbs., continues to lead the team with 35 catches for 497 yards, 4 touchdowns, and a long of 52. Junior Chance Cooper, 6’3″ 205 lbs., continues to produce while recovering from injury, with 24 catches for 357 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 73 yards. Red shirt junior Kelan Smith, 6’1″ 170 lbs., has shaken off his sophomore slump with 26 catches for 244 yards 3 touchdowns, and a long of 24 yards, including the game clincher two weeks ago against West Texas A&M.
The Rams back line is led by the aforementioned French, as well as senior Jac Yurow, 5’10” 175 lbs. The Ram secondary, while not having great size, has done a great job in limiting the opponent’s passing game.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-Red shirt junior Jake Viquez has more than adequately filled the shoes of Lion legend Kristov Martinez, going 10 of 13 on field goal attempts, and posted a season best 48 yard field goal this last week into the teeth of stiff breeze.
Junior punter Andrew Gomez, who was sidelined this past week, still has managed a very good 40.6 yard average on 31 punts.
The Rams kick return game is led by sophomore Deldric Shields, 5’9″ 191 lbs., who has 5 returns for a eye opening 36.0 yard average, and a long of 83 yards. Senior Lawson Ayo, 6’1″ 195 lbs., has 9 punt returns for a 9.7 yard average, with a long of 32 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN-It all comes down to this, Lion fans, and it really is quite simple:Win, and a return to the playoffs is all but certain. Lose, and the season is in limbo. The rankings have not been kind to the Lions, which is not a new thing.
The Rams, while undersized, have a very good scoring defense, and have thrived off of the turnover. The song remains the same for the Lion offense: Ball security, protect Smalls, and to repeat an earlier quote from the great John Madden, “don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.”
This is a game the Lions should win, provided they take care of business. It’s time to tune out all of the noise, all of the distractions, and just play their game.
One time. One game.
WHILE WE’RE HERE- The staff here at The Wire would like to address some events that occurred today that have put the proverbial burr under our saddles.
The final regular season regional rankings for Super Region Four came out today, and the Lions remain at #6, despite a dominant performance last week, and the team ranked above them, our opponents this week, Angelo State, losing to an unranked Eastern New Mexico team in overtime. This is by no means a slight to our friends from Portales, but the fact is, they are unranked. An Augustana(SD) team, with an 8-2 overall and 8-2 in region record, jumped ahead of the Lions at #5.
This is in our opinion, an absolute joke, and an insult to David Bailiff and his team. What more do they need to do? Their only two losses have to been to #1 ranked Tarleton State, and #4 ranked Colorado State-Pueblo, both on the road.
Augustana’s two losses have been a three touchdown loss to #2 ranked Minnesota State-Mankato, and to an unranked Bemidji State(Minn.)team. The Vikings are currently UNRANKED IN BOTH THE AFCA COACHES AND D2FOOTBALL.COM POLLS. To say this is outrageous is an understatement.
Rather than continue to complain, it is the collective thought here that it’s time for the gloves to come off for the Lions. It’s time to win, and win decisively. Make a statement.
That chance comes this Saturday at 3pm in San Angelo.