Greetings, Lion fans, and in this week’s 2020 season preview, we’ll take a look at the Lions week six opponent, the Western New Mexico Mustangs. The Lions at this point have completed non conference play, so the pressure ramps up from here on out. So let’s break down the match up with our friends from out west in Silver City, New Mexico.
2019 Season: 2-10 (9th LSC)
Biggest Win: vs. UTPB, 47-28
Biggest Loss: vs. Commerce, 62-21
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
THE SKINNY- Frank Tristan returns for his third season with the Mustangs, and things are looking up. After an 0-10 season in 2018, 2-10 would appear as not much of an improvement, but upon closer inspection, the Mustangs were competitive in every game in 2019.
Points- 24.2 ppg
Rushing- 122.7 ypg
Passing- 269.2 ypg
Total- 391.9 ypg
Passing- CJ Fowler (6’3″ 215 lbs., Sr.) 224-438-11 2,916 yds., 19 TD Long 76
Rushing- Oly Taase (5’10” 240 lbs., Sr.) 75-292 yds. 1 TD Long 39
CJ Fowler 78-358 yds. 1 TD Long 33
Receiving- Reggie Colson III (6’2″ 205 lbs., Sr.) 66-1,036 yds. 10 TD Long 76
Joshua Powell (5’9″ 173 lbs., Soph.) 53-903 yds. 6 TD Long 56
Koudre Roberts (5’9″ 165 lbs., Jr.) 11-123 yds. 1 TD Long 42
THE SKINNY-Fowler returns to direct an explosive Mustang offense. In addition to completing 51% of his passes, Fowler is also the returning rusher, with 358 yards on 78 attempts. Senior Oly Taase takes over as the feature back, and plays bigger than his 5’10” frame.
The receiving corps is headed up by Reggie Colson III, a first team all LSC selection in 2019. He is closely followed by 2019 Freshman of the Year Joshua Powell. Junior Koudre Roberts looks to continue a promising 2019 season.
New offensive coordinator Buddy Blevins will have quite the well of talent to draw on in the 2020 season. There’s a load of big play capability at the wide out position, and an experienced quarterback in Fowler. If Taase can live up to expectations as a running back, the Mustangs will be a real headache for LSC defensive coaches.
Points- 41.5 ppg
Rushing- 231.6 ypg
Passing- 273.8 ypg
Total- 505.5 ypg
DB Thomas Webb (5’11” 195 lbs., Soph) 31.5 tackles (23 solo)
DB Troy Hall (6’1″ 190 lbs., Jr.) 31 tackles (24 solo)
LB Dante James-Fainga (6’0″ 220 lbs., Jr.) 24.5 tackles (15 solo)
DB Izell Price (6’0″ 185 lbs., Sr.) 4 interceptions
THE SKINNY- The Mustangs have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Webb and Hall return to lead a group that gave up an average of over 500 yards per game. Price had a respectable 4 interceptions in 2019, but the Mustangs secondary gave up the big play on a regular basis. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Punting: Evan Rios (5’10” 185 lbs., Sr.) 15-37.7 ypg Long 45
Kicking: Ignacio Correa (6’4″ 205 lbs., Sr.) 7-9 Long 32
Punt Return: Powell 8-11.2 ypg Long 35
Roberts 3-11.0 ypg Long 33
Kick Return: Powell 16-26.9 ypg 1 TD Long 99
WR Jevin Henderson (5’8″ 155 lbs., Soph.) 9-14.4 ypg Long 39
THE SKINNY-Correa, while not having a particularly strong leg, is very accurate with 7 field goals in 9 attempts. Rios is a serviceable punter at almost 38 yards per punt. Powell is an explosive kick returner with almost 27 yards per return, with a touchdown, and long of 99 yards. He also average 11.2 yards per punt return. Roberts has contributed a very respectful 11 yards per return. Sophomore wide out Huddleston chips in with 14.4 yards on 9 returns with a long of 39 yards.
THE LOW DOWN- On the surface, a team coming off of a 2-10 record wouldn’t appear to be of much concern to a Lion team with dreams of a national championship run. The Mustangs, however, were contenders in every game during the 2019 season, and in the regular season finale, led conference champion Tarleton State 17-14 at the half, and were hanging tough with the Lions after one quarter, trailing only 13-7.
Western New Mexico returns a potent offense with a veteran quarterback, and two big play receivers in Colson and Powell. Taase is a compact, powerful back. The Mustangs can put up some numbers offensively.
The problem, however, is defense. Western returns a core of 5 defensive starters to the worst defense in the LSC in 2019. If they are able to put things together defensively, then Western will be a real problem for every opponent this fall.
If there is a “trap” game on the 2020 Lion schedule, this is it. The Lions face their longest road trip of the season, 870 miles, out to Silver City, to face a Mustang team with a big play offense, and that would enjoy nothing more than to derail any post season hopes for the Lions. David Bailiff and company certainly will face an uphill battle, but one that they should be able to handle, if they take care of business.