Greetings, Lion fans. The staff here at The Wire hopes everyone is staying safe and healthy during these trying time. Hopefully, we’ll be back to normal soon.
This week, we’ll break down what could very well be the Lions toughest conference opponent, the Buffaloes of West Texas A&M. WTAMU gave the Lions a battle last season in Canyon, with the game in doubt well into the fourth quarter, before the Lions escaped with a hard fought 34-20 win. So, let’s take a closer look:
2019 Season Record: 8-3 (4th LSC)
Biggest Win: vs. Central Washington, 48-41
Biggest Loss: vs. Commerce, 34-20
Returning Starters: 5 Offense, 7 Defense
Head Coach: Hunter Hughes, 17-16 (3rd season)
THE SKINNY: Hunter Hughes, returns for his third season after a giant leap forward for the Buffalo program in 2019. Returning to a new stadium on campus, West Texas finished a very good 8-3, and are looking to improve in 2020.
Points: 32.5 ppg
Rushing: 179.4 ypg
Passing: 183.3 ypg
Total: 362.6 ypg
Rushing: RB Logan Vallo (6’0″ 200 lbs., Sr.) 74-352 4 TD Long 45
QB Nick Garber (6’1″ 194 lbs., RS-Jr.) 73-382 8 TD Long 32
Passing: Nick Gerber 172-316-8 INT 2,016 yds. 16 TD Long 73
Receiving: WR Chase Stokh (6’1″ 195 lbs., Sr.) 30-330 yds. Long 38
WR Jamaal Hamilton (5’10” 191 lbs., Jr.) 17-188 yds. 1 TD Long 35
THE SKINNY- Red shirt junior quarterback Nick Gerber returns to lead a very balanced Buff offense. Leading rusher Duke Carter IV and receiver Semaj Mitchell have graduated, so there are some holes to be filled. Garber has the ability to make plays with his feet.
Points: 26.1 ppg
Rushing: 142.5 ypg
Passing: 254.6 ypg
Total: 397.2 ypg
Returning Leaders: LB Hayden Dennis (6’2″ 225 lbs., Sr.) 118 tackles (46 solo)
DB Tobias Harris (5’9″ 180 lbs., Jr.) 68 tackles (47 solo) 3 INT
LB Eric Collins (6’3″ 200 lbs., Sr.) 67 tackles (31 solo)
THE SKINNY- Harris, one the top players in the Lone Star Conference, returns for his junior season to lead a Buffalo defense with some room to improve. Linebackers Dennis and Collins were also among the leading tacklers of a West Texas defense that, while producing 24 turnovers, were also surrendering close to 400 yards per game.
Kicking: Mauricio Gonzalez (5’8″ 164 lbs., Sr.) 1-6 Long 27
Punting: Aaron Coash (5’7″ 187 lbs., RS-Soph.) 56-37.1 yds. Long 53 3 Blocked
Kick Return: Tobias Harris: 25-22.8 yds. 1 TD Long 90
Punt Return: Tobias Harris: 19-22.9 yds., 1 TD Long 95
THE SKINNY: In addition to his work in the secondary, Tobias Harris, along with the Lions Dominique Ramsey, the best returner in the Lone Star Conference, and arguably in all of Division II. He is a threat to score or dramatically change field position at any point. Gonzalez looks to improve in an expanded role in 2020, and Coash, while averaging a respectable 37 yards per punt, also had a tendency to have his punts blocked. One of those came against the Lions last season, and was a key to the win.
THE LOW DOWN-This game looks to be the toughest in conference test for the Lions. Fortunately, this one is in the friendly confines of The Hawk. West Texas brings a balanced offense with a veteran quarterback, and if their other skill positions come along, could be a real problem.
Defensively, the Buffs have thrived off of turnovers. Harris is one of the best all around players in the conference, but there is work to be done to shore up a defense gave up almost 400 yards.
Bottom line is, this game is going to be a battle. If the Lions stay within themselves and play to their potential, though, it is a very winnable one.