Greetings, Lion fans. The staff here at The Wire would like to wish each and every one of you and your families a very happy Thanksgiving. It is truly a time to be thankful for all that we have and the blessings of everyone in our lives.
This week, we’re going to break down what could very well be the most important area of the game this week, just how will the Blue Gang deal with a very diverse Colorado School of Mines offense?
The Lions are arriving at this juncture seemingly peaking at just the right time. The past two weeks have some of the best defense played by a school known for good defense. Defensive Coordinator Xavier Adibi and his staff have certainly earned their keep this season. In the third consecutive season with a new coordinator, new system, and new terminology, Lion defensive players continue to adapt and excel.
The past two weeks, they have faced teams averaging well over 40 points per game, and over 400 and almost 600 total yards per game, and have shut them down, allowing only one touchdown in 8 quarters of play. One touchdown. That level of defense wins football games.
There’s no rest for the weary, though. The third seeded Orediggers await in a snowy and cold Golden, Colorado, lair eagerly anticipating what looks to be a very good match up. Let’s dive right in and take a look:
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Oredigger Offensive Line-6’2″ 296 lbs.
Lion Front Six(D Line & Linebackers)-6’0″ 259 lbs.
Mines, while not being particularly big on the offensive line, nevertheless are the driving force of an offense that averages almost 500 yards per game. They are a good mix of youth and experience, and are led by a pair of red shirt seniors, tackle Grant Stewart, 6’2″ 305 lbs., and Cap McClure, 6’3″ 320 lbs., The Orediggers like to pound the football on people and wear them down.
The Lions front six have been nothing short of masterful lately. Turning aside an early Tarleton threat with a field goal, and then holding them short on three attempts inside the Lion five yard line and forcing another, was the key to a win. Senior linebackers Terrell Collins, 6’0″ 245 lbs., and Neema Behbahani 6’1″ 230 lbs., are among the team leaders in tackles, Collins with 77 (32 solo), and Behbahani with 43 (15 solo). Collins had a pair of sacks last week as well.
The defensive line has been a great mix of talent, led by redshirt junior defensive end Elijah Earls, 6’0″ 240 lbs., who had 2 1/2 sacks, and three tackles for loss. Senior Chris Williams, 6’1″ 285 lbs., senior Peyton Searcy, 6’2″ 275 lbs., and senior Pierre Leonard, 5’10” 300 lbs., held down the middle of the line and closed off running lanes. There has been a very good mix of personnel that allow the coaching staff to rotate players, keeping them fresh and free of injury.
They’ll definitely have a challenge this week. The Orediggers are very balanced, and the elevation is certain to be a factor, as well as the weather.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-The Oredigger rushing attack is paced by red shirt sophomore Micheal Zeman, 5’11” 210 lbs., who has a very good 1,389 yard on 174 attempts, with 12 touchdowns, and a long of 75 yards. he has taken over for an injured Cameron Mayberry, who has since returned and produced 675 yards on 114 attempts, with 8 touchdowns, and a long of 54 yards. Neither appear to have a great deal of speed, are power runners who don’t fumble the ball very much.
Freshman quarterback Jon Matocha is playing nothing like a true freshman, completing 235 passes on 319 attempts for a 237.9 yards per game average, with 29 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a long of 50 yards. He also is the second leading rusher, with 710 yards on 131 attempts, 11 touchdowns, with a long of 30 yards, making him every bit of the dual threat that Lion quarterback Miklo Smalls is.
On the other end of those Matocha passes is red shirt sophomore reciever Josh Johnston, 6’2″ 190 lbs., who present defenses a real size matchup problem. He had 901 yards on 55 catches, 14 touchdowns, and a long of 50 yards. Red shirt freshman Mason Karp has 447 yards on 50 catches a pair of touchdowns, and a long of 44 yards. Red shirt senior Sean O’Dell, 5’7″ 165 lbs., has 386 yards on 52 catches, also has a pair of touchdowns, with a long of 37 yards.
The Lion back line welcomed back red shirt junior safety Alex Shillow, 5’10” 185 lbs., this past week, which offset the loss of the Lions triple threat, red shirt junior Dominique Ramsey, 5’9″ 180 lbs., who was out due to injury. It is still unknown at this time if he will be available. Senior Sammy Gray, 5’11” 180 lbs., has done a great job filling in without causing other personnel to have to switch positions. Red shirt senior Jalon Edwards-Cooper, 5’11” 175 lbs., had 8 tackles last week (5 solo), 1/2 sack, and brought what seemed like constant pressure on the Tarleton passer. Senior corner LA Dawson, 6’0″ 180 lbs., and red shirt junior Kader Kohou, 5’11” 190 lbs., were outstanding in pass coverage, and Kohou more than ably filled in for Ramsey in the return game.
The Orediggers present some problems this week with their balance. The back line is sure to be tested much like last week, and are sure to be up to that challenge.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-.Red shirt senior Austin Toussaint handles the punting chores for Mines, and averages a very good 41.9 yards on 50 punts, with a long of 79 yards. He has had two punts blocked this season.
Red shirt junior Scott Marshall, the hero of last week’s win over Sioux Falls, is 4 of 8 on field goals, with a long of 46 yards. He has not had a kick blocked this season.
Kader Kohou was outstanding in the punt return game last week, averaging 18.5 yards per return, and 11 yards on his only kick return. That’s the kind of performance that helps David Bailiff and his staff sleep much easier at night, less worried about the Ramsey loss.
BY THE NUMBERS-
WHAT’S GOING DOWN/THE VERDICT-Well, here we are again, Lion fans. Another game on the road, another chance to go, as strength coach Joey Caldwell says, 1-0. The Lions have been here before. They have played in the cold, and in the bad weather. They have played at elevation earlier this season.
The Orediggers, offensively, while not seeming to possess much speed or explosive ability, nevertheless are very balanced and difficult to defend. Matocha is a true dual threat quarterback that they will have to account for. Their defense, while not very big, are well coached, tackle well, and will turn their opponent over.
The Lions come into this game on a roll. The defense has played outstanding all year, but have taken things to another level recently. In a fan base that believes great defense is a birthright, Lion fans are taking notice.
Offensively, Miklo Smalls continues to “do his thing”. Deadly accurate, he also is very capable of making plays with his feet, and forcing defenses to account for him every play. The offensive line continues to jell, and if they are able to keep him upright and open some holes for Lealiiee and Williams, should be able to move the ball.
Lion fans, we started out saying 5 games. 5 games takes the Lions where they want to go, the National Championship. Now, it’s four. They continue to adapt and overcome. The confidence has never been higher.
This is a game that is very winnable, Lion fans. You have every reason to be confident, and expect to win.
And the question still is to be asked……WHY NOT US?
See You Saturday.