Greetings, Lion fans. All in all, a tough night, one that started with so much hope and promise. Let’s get right to it…..
- THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE-The quote by the late NFL coach, Dennis Green, certainly applies here. The Argonauts of West Florida are a consensus number one for a reason. Much like the Lions of 2017, West Florida has a huge offensive line, a smart quarterback with a rocket arm, an effective, although not eye popping running attack, and a defense that steps up when it has to. They could easily be competitive at the FBS level.
2. WHAT NEEDED TO HAPPEN, DIDN’T-The pre snap and procedure penalties again reared their ugly head, and stopped whatever momentum the Lions were building. Austin Reed was 18 of 32 for 274 yards, averaged over 15 yards per completion, wasn’t sacked, and was only pressured a handful of times. West Florida had three explosive plays of over 30 yards, one of which resulted in their opening touchdown. The Blue Gang defense, while for the most part, were able to hold the Argonauts to reasonable results on first and second down, were unable to get off the field on third down, allowing West Florida to convert on 6 of 9 third downs. Argonaut runners were able to break tackles and slip defenders en route to rushing for 169 yards. The Argonaut defense limited the Lions to 112 yards rushing, and less than two yards per attempt, frustrating the Lions hopes of controlling the clock and keeping the potent West Florida offense off the field.
3. DRIVING THE BUS-Inconsistent quarterback play again caused the Lion offense to sputter, despite some flashes, and overall positive results in the red zone. It was anticipated that there were going to be some growing pains on the offensive side of the ball, with the absence of Miklo Smalls, but for 12 quarters now, the offense was anticipated to be this sleek, fast Lamborghini, has instead been stalled on the side of the highway with the “check engine” light on. The Lions need to find a solution, and quickly. There is certainly work to be done.
4. CASHING IN-The Lions were able to cash in on the one turnover that West Florida had, a fumbled punt late in the second quarter, and were able to convert it into a 33 yard field goal 20 seconds before halftime. Outside of that, Commerce was unable to force a turnover, or mount a consistent attack to take advantage of any kind of field position, despite some very nice punt and kickoff returns.
5. THE SURREAL-Until the 3:25 mark of the third quarter, the Lions had a three point lead. Despite giving up a touchdown, shortly after, it was still a one score game, and very much in doubt. One play into the fourth quarter, West Florida scored on a 19 yard touchdown pass, and it became a two score game. That’s when I saw something that never in my life thought I would ever see as an alumni or a fan. At that point, the Argonauts took a 28-17 lead, and roughly half the crowd of 8,269 at The Hawk headed for the exits. Words cannot adequately express my displeasure and outright anger at this. The fact is, Lion fans, WEST FLORIDA IS A GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM. They are ranked #1 for a reason. They have one of, in not the top offense in all of Division 2, with a quarterback that should be a prime candidate for the Harlon Hill award. The Lions played their hearts out, but on this night, it was not enough. .
Ladies and Gentlemen, your Lions, since 2014, are now 26-5 at home. That is a record that any team in college football, at any level, would envy. The Lions have been one of the winningest programs in Division 2 in the last nine years. This didn’t just happen. It took a lot of very hard work from not only players, but coaches, trainers, equipment managers, and other support staff that literally put in hundreds of hours in the heat, cold, rain, and yes, snow to put the best product they can on the field . The run to the national championship in 2017 was one of the most incredible, exciting, and toughest accomplishments ever. We all enjoyed it, packed The Hawk, and went along for the ride.
No one thing, or one person, is the cause for this rough stretch, and any statement or social media post that implies such is just wrong. We, as a fan base, have been spoiled by the vast amount of success that the Lions have enjoyed as a program. Now it not the time to be pointing fingers at ANYONE.
This kind of effort and success deserves support, encouragement, and respect. Anything less is not acceptable. When things happen like what occurred last night, players notice it. Coaches notice it. Support staff notice it. The women’s softball team, who do outstanding work in taking and delivering concession orders to those in reserved seats, and don’t get paid for it, they notice it too. We’re better than this. All of us.