Greetings, Lion fans. This week in the Notebook, we take a deep dive into the matchup with a longtime Lion foe, the Javelinas of Kingsville. First though, a look back at what has to be two of the most frustrating games in recent memory defensively for Commerce.
For the vast majority of play so far this season, the Lion defense has been stellar, despite the two losses. However, there are a couple of major factors that have led to defensive letdowns in the second half. First, as was discussed in the Pre Snap read, the offensive struggles with converting third downs, the lack of success in getting the ball downfield in the passing game, and the inablility of the offense to sustain drives have eventually left the defense on the field for far too long. Remember, the defense had held the vaunted West Florida offense to 14 points until well into the third quarter.
FULL STEAM AHEAD-That is the message this week. There are some issues (allowing third down conversions, lack of turnovers), but overall this unit is playing very well right now. Xavier Adibi and his staff have done a masterful job of rotating in fresh personnel, keeping the defensive pressure up. A little fine tuning here and there, and the defense will rebound. Now, onto the Javelinas.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Turnovers- 6 (+2)
Blue Gang Defense:
Rush- 119.3 ypg
Pass- 192.6 ypg
Total- 312.0 ypg
Turnovers- 6 (+1)
So far in 2021, Kingsville has seemingly had a shift in offensive philosophy. In 2018 and 19, The hoggies were more of a wide open, pass first offense with Koy Detmer, Jr. and Cade Dyal at the helm. So far this season, a more definite emphasis has been placed on the run. Kingsville has their own three headed rushing attack monster to unleash.
The Blue Gang, despite the onslaught from one of the most impressive offensive units in all of Division 2, have held firm for the most part. If they’re able to solve the third down issues and get the opponent off of the field, things will only improve.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Javelina Offensive Line: 6’3″ 303 lbs.
Blue Gang Front Six: 6’1″ 262 lbs.
I know….at first glance, the Lions would seem to be at a distinct size disadvantage. Remember though, this includes the Commerce linebackers, which are considerably lighter than the defensive line.
The Javelinas are young (three juniors, a redshirt freshman, and redshirt sophomore)big, and like to establish their dominance through the run. The trio of juniors that lead this unit are Tanner Robinson (6’5″ 320 lbs.), Will Kinyo (6’4″ 310 lbs.), and Julio Cuello (6’2″ 285 lbs.).
The best way to describe the Blue Gang defensive front so far is the old baseball saying, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” Solid depth, and talent to that depth, enables the Lions to rotate three different units of defensive linemen and linebackers. In close observation last week, it seemed like almost every play, there were groups coming on and off the field, depending on the personnel package called. The outstanding work of the defensive line has enabled sophomore linebacker Michael Noble (6’1″ 230 lbs.) and redshirt senior Xavier Morris (6’1″ 220 lbs.) to lead the team in tackles with 23 and 18, respectively.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Javelina Backs and Receivers: 6’2″ 217 lbs.
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 186 lbs.
The Javelinas have definitely had more of an emphasis on the run this season, with redshirt sophomore Christian Anderson (5’11” 105 lbs.) leading the way with 192 yards on 34 carries, a pair of touchdowns, and a long of 50 yards. Grad student quarterback Shane Johnson (6’2″ 205 lbs.) follows close behind with 149 yards on 30 carries, two touchdowns, and a long of 25 yards. Johnson has also passed for a 93.6 yard per game average on 34 of 56 attempts, one interception, and a long of 38 yards. Senior Josh McGowen (5’10” 240 lbs.) serves as a power/short yardage back, with 138 yards on 40 carries, one touchdown, and a long of 23 yards.
When Kingsville does decide to throw the ball, they definitely have some big targets to work with. Redshirt senior wide receiver Darrian Hambrick (6’5″ 245) leads the team with 123 yards on 12 catches , with a long of 26 yards. Redshirt senior wide out Ty Chisum (6’4″ 210 lbs.) and sophomore tight end Walker Ring (6’5″ 250 lbs.) also provide a big challenge to most every defensive backfield.
The Lion secondary of Ellis, Williams, Shillow, Ramsey, and Kohou will certainly have to be at the top of their game this week in order to match up.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-A pair of redshirt freshmen handle the punting and kicking for the Javelinas. Gilbert Garza (5’9″ 200 lbs.) is 4 of 4 on field goals, with a long of 46 yards. Jacob Cavazos (5’11” 180 lbs.)
Redshirt senior Dominique Ramsey (5’9″ 180 lbs.) was finally able to flash some of the brilliance in the return game that Lion fans have become accustomed to seeing, and now has 4 punt returns for a 15.5 yard average, with a long of 45 yards. He also has 6 kickoff returns for a 20.5 yard average, with a long of 35. Senior D’Angelo Ellis (6’1″ 190 lbs.) has one punt return for 20 yards, and redshirt senior Kader Kohou (5’11” 190 lbs.) had 3 punt returns for a 10.3 yard average, with a long of 18. Could this be the week the return game breaks out? We’ll see.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF:
GET OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN-If there has been a constant problem for the Blue Gang so far, it’s this. They are currently 16-40, for a rate of 40%. This has to come to a halt, and quickly. We’ve all seen what happens when the opponent is able to convert on almost half of their third downs. The defense eventually lets down.
HAMMER DOWN-The Lions absolutely must stop the run, and force the Hoggies into throwing the ball, which they really would rather not do. If they’re able to accomplish this, and force more third and long situations (6 plus yards to go), they will be able to gather themselves and make any necessary adjustments.
BRING THE WOOD!- Pressure, pressure, pressure. Force Shane Johnson into a hurried decision making process. Don’t allow him to get into a rhythm and become settled in the pocket.
DON’T THINK-There’s a saying about good cornerbacks in football. They have a short memory, almost none. The past two weeks have been among the most disappointing and frustrating I have ever seen around the Lion football team. Come Saturday, all that has to be completely forgotten. To borrow a quote from the great John Madden:
“Don’t worry about the horse being blind. Just load the wagon.”
One down, one play at a time. The rest will take care of itself.
THE VERDICT-The Lions can, and should win this game. Make no mistake, though, the boys from Kingsville have seen the scores, and a licking their chops at the opportunity to take on a Lion team that might be a little down, and doubting themselves.
Remember this, though, Lion fans. A wounded Lion, hurt and bleeding, is even more dangerous than normal. Yes, they are hurting. Down on themselves? no. Doubting? absolutely not.
If there’s one thing that we as fans have learned about these players, coached by David Bailiff, is that, when the going gets rough, they pull together. And pull hard.
It’s time. Time to HOLD THE ROPE.
See You Saturday.