Greetings. Lion fans, and after what was most certainly a frustrating loss last week against Midwestern, there’s no rest for the weary as the 2019 defending Division II National Champions, the West Florida Argonauts pay a visit to the friendly confines of The Hawk, seeking a little payback to the Lions for the 2017 championship game loss. It may be perceived that the game may not have the buzz generated around it that would have been if the Lions had pulled out the win last Saturday, but it will still be the talk of the Division II landscape this week. First, though, let’s take a look back at last week.
DON’T PUSH THE PANIC BUTTON JUST YET-We understand, Lion fans. To end up losing a game that you think you can and should win is extremely frustrating. Brian and I are just as frustrated as all of you are. However, there are some silver linings to be pulled out of this mess. Yes, it is a conference loss. ONE. The coaches will now certainly have the players attention, and their messages to the players will be heard loud and clear.
Three other teams besides the Lions in the AFCA Coaches poll lost last week, including #3 Minnesota State-Mankato, 30-10, on the road at Minnesota-Duluth. It is still early enough in the season to rally and get to where the Lions want to go. The offense, despite the three turnovers, had 416 yards, and were very balanced. Outside of one 90 plus yard drive, the Blue Gang defense limited the Mustangs to 184 total yards.
There were several things that happened that usually just don’t. To borrow a quote from the classic Dan Jenkins novel, Semi Tough, “That d***** ball ain’t round. It’ll bounce funny on you.”
Lion fans, if there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the David Bailiff era, it is this-he knows how to get his team focused, and ready for the task at hand. While he holds his team to a high standard, he holds himself and his staff to an even higher one. That was evident in the post game press conference.
You can bet that the Lions will be more than ready this week.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Points: 21.0 ppg
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE:
Lion Offensive Line: 6’4″ 308 lbs.
Argo Front Seven: 6’1″ 262 lbs.
The Lions hold a slight advantage is size and experience here, and although banged up slightly, come into the game ready to go. They have been the engine that makes the offense work, and will face a tough test in a big, quick West Florida front seven . The Argos are led in tackles by graduate transfer Shea Campbell (6”0″ 230 lbs.) who has tallied 10 tackles (6 solo). Redshirt senior D’Anthony Bell (6’0″ 205 lbs.) follows close behind with 9(5 solo), along with senior defensive lineman Matthew Gotel (6’4″ 325 lbs.), who had 8 (4 solo), and redshirt junior defensive back T.J. Limehouse (6’0″ 190 lbs.)
The Argonaut front seven has five total quarterback sacks so far, and while no one player has more than one, as a unit, they have been able to generate good pressure on the passer.
For the Lions, redshirt junior Richard West (6’5″ 299 lbs.) twice came out of the Midwestern game due to injury, but was able to return, and play well. The offensive line allowed only a single sack, and paved the way for 416 yards of total offense, 201 of which came on the ground. They will certainly have to be at the top of their game this week.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Lion Backs/Receivers: 6’1″ 212 lbs.
Argo Back Line: 5’11” 190 lbs.
The Lions have a definite advantage here. The West Florida back line is smallish, and allows 298 yards per game passing. Besides the aforementioned D’Anthony Bell and T.J. Limehouse, the Argos have a very experienced group, although not having eye popping statistics.
Senior Chance Cooper (6’3″ 200 lbs.) had a big 65 yard grab last week to set up a Lion score, and leads the receivers with 7 catches for 123 yards. Freshman Jaden Proctor (5’10” 175 lbs.) has been a nice surprise, with 6 receptions for 40 yards.
If the Lion offensive line is able to protect the quarterback, it appears they will have an opportunity to move the ball very well through the air.
Redshirt senior running back Antonio Lealii’ee (5’11” 210 lbs.) had his first 100 yard rushing game of the season last week with 103 yards on 8 carries. Redshirt senior E.J. Thompson (5’9″ 196 lbs.) has returned to form, and tallied 47 yards on 7 carries, along with 4 receptions. The combination of Lealii’ee, Thompson, and senior speedster J.T. Smith (6’0″ 185 lbs.) has proven to be an effective weapon for offensive coordinator Billy Riebock.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED: Senior Jake Viquez was stellar again last week. He is 3-4 on extra points, and 5-6 on field goals, with a career long of 52 yards. Redshirt sophomore Emanuel Adagbon returned to form, and although having a net average of 27 yards on the season, had a long of 44 yards last week, and looked to be much improved.
The West Florida return game is not particularly impressive with only redshirt senior receiver Ka’Ron Ashley (6’3″ 165 lbs.) making an appearance with two returns for a 10.5 yard average.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF:
A FULL 60-It was a very un Lion-like performance last week. After bolting to a 23-0 lead, and a 30-10 after an opening drive score in the second half, Commerce seemingly went into a shell offensively, and it cost them.
SETTLE ON A QUARTERBACK-It was anticipated that the Lions would probably have some kinks to work out offensively with 2019 star Miklo Smalls still unavailable. We saw both redshirt junior Jaiave Magalei and freshman Eric Rodriguez last week, and this week, freshman Brock Nellor, saw action as well. While the offense produced over 400 yards and 30 points, the kinks are still there, and the pre snap and procedure penalties that were avoided in the opener reared their ugly head last week. Whether Smalls is available or not this week, or going forward, the Lions seem to need to settle on a quarterback, hand him the keys to the offense, and let him develop more of an ability to work with the vast array of weapons the Lions posess.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL-As promising as the opener was in the lack of self inflicted wounds offensively, they were back with a vengance last week. It’s important that the Lions offense is able to shake off the cobwebs and focus on limiting the pre snap penalties.
RIPE FOR THE TAKING-This is a very winnable game, Lion fans. West Florida appears to be very offensive minded, and likes to out score people. The Argo defense has given up an average of almost 400 yards, with almost 300 coming through the air. There are opportunities for the Lions to exploit here.
HOME SWEET HOME-Finally, after two years, the Lions return home, where they are 26-4 since 2013. When you’re chasing a title, like the Lions are, you live for games like this.
Now is the time, Lion fans. Time to pack The Hawk for what should be a fantastic game.
Christopher Walken, in the movie Poolhall Junkies, has a line which goes like this:
“One day, that Lion gets up and tears the **** out of everybody. Runs like the wind, eats everything in his path. Because, every once in a while…..the Lion has to show the jackals who he is.”
See You at The Hawk.