Greetings, Lion fans, in this week’s edition of the Blue Gang notebook we’ll take a look at the matchup with the Midwestern State Mustangs this Saturday night in the Ballpark in Arlington(for those like me that have been around a while, it has been, and always will be, The Ballpark). The Lions look to continue their defensive domination this week against another solid offensive team, and one they have had issues in the past with.
A LOOK BACK-Wow. Just wow. Talk about earning a nickname. Like Brian and I have said in the past, the Blue Gang moniker is not so much about the individual play itself, but a collective mindset among each and every player on the defense. An attitude. Every play is a fight to the finish. That if an opposing team crosses the Lion goal line, take a picture, because it won’t happen often. A Thunderwolves team that came into the game averaging over 350 yards per game was limited to just over 200 total yards, of which only 78 came on the ground. Offensive miscues put them in a bind, yet they held, and forced a CSU-P field goal. The only explosive play allowed was a 50/50 jump ball that the Lions were in position for. Again, the defense recovered, and held on downs to secure the win. This was truly a team effort defensively.
Legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant once said, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships.”
Very true. Now, onto this week.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Blue Gang Front 6: 6’1″ 262 lbs.
Mustang Offensive Line: 6’2″ 285 lbs.
The Mustang offensive line is very experienced, led by seniors Nick Gonzalez (6’2″ 300 lbs.), Austan Davis (6’4″ 270 lbs.), and Caleb Brown(6’3″ 295 lbs.). They are sound fundamentally and do a good job of protecting the passer. The Lion defensive line will certainly be tested in an attempt to create pressure on the quarterback.
The Lion defensive line, after some early adjustments, dominated the line of scrimmage last week. Redshirt senior Jaylon Hodge(6’0″ 275 lbs.) Junior Devin Beamon (6’1″ 290 lbs.) and senior Ben Hutch(6’4″ 305 lbs.) jammed the middle, which freed up senior linebacker Xavier Morris (6’1″ 220 lbs.) and Michael Noble (6’1″ 230 lbs.) to roam free and make plays, to the tune of seven and nine total tackles, respectively. Redshirt senior defensive end Elijah Earls (6’0″ 240 lbs.) generated continuous pressure off the edge.
Lion fans, this defensive line is deep, talented, and plays with a mean streak. They just don’t want to shut out an opponent, they don’t want to give up a single yard. None.
THE BACK LINE/MOVERS AND SHAKERS-
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 186 lbs.,
Mustang Movers and Shakers: 5’10” 176 lbs.
Midwestern has settled on a new, but more experienced quarterback in senior Dillon Sterling-Cole (6’3″ 215), a strong pocket presence, but has the ability to make plays with his feet. He has an array of talented receivers, led by redshirt freshman Kylan Harrison (5’9″ 160 lbs.) and senior Kandin Robertson (5’11’ 170 lbs.), Head Coach Bill Maskill has opted for the smaller, quicker type of receiver that is usually found in the Spread/Air Raid style of offense.
Senior K’Vonte Jackson (5’11” 180 lbs.) had nine attempts for 64 yards, and a long of 16 last week, and freshman Jalen March (5’10” 190 lbs.) made a splash with six rushes for 70 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.
The Blue Gang secondary continued their excellent play last week, led by redshirt seniors Dominique Ramsey (5’9″ 180 lbs.,), who made a key pass breakup in the end zone last week during one of those short field tests mentioned earlier, and Kader Kohou (5’11” 190 lbs.) Rice transfer D’Angelo Ellis (6’1″ 190 lbs., Sr.) made quite the debut with eight tackles. Redshirt senior Alex Shillow (5’10” 185 lbs.) and redshirt junior Darrius Williams (5’9″ 185 lbs.) continued their outstanding play.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED- Sophomore Fernando Piedra (6’0″ 190 lbs.) made his 2021 debut last week, with 6 punts for a 33.3 yard average, with a long of 42. Senior Jacob Rowland (6’0″ 180 lbs.) was 6-7 on extra points, but missed his only field goal attempt.
God Bless the Lion returners last week. If the horrendous wind conditions weren’t enough, CSU-P just would not punt anywhere in the same ZIP code as Dominique Ramsey. Ramsey still managed two returns for 14 yards on a tough night. D’Angelo Ellis stepped in, and had one punt return for 20 yards.
It may seem like a rather pedestrian night, but the biggest thing to take away from last week was this….no turnovers.
Don’t sleep on the return game Lion fans. Ramsey, Ellis, and Kohou are extremely dangerous, and are a threat any time they touch the ball.
WHAT’S GOING DOWN/THE VERDICT- The Lions make their first trek to what was originally a true baseball cathedral in the Ballpark, which has turned into an outstanding football venue. The keys to a Lion win are very simple: 1. Keep Magalie upright and in a clean pocket. 2. Continue the fantastic defensive effort. 3. To borrow a phrase from the Netflix series Cobra Kai, “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy.” In other words, strike early, keep the gas pedal on the floor, and don’t back off.
The Mustang defense gave up over 500 yards, almost 400 passing to a team with a 2019 record of 5-6 in a subpar conference. If they Lions take care of the ball, and just play their game, they win, and win big.
See You Saturday.