Greetings, Lion fans, and after an expected win over an undermanned and outclassed University of Ft. Lauderdale team, business picks up for the Lions this week when 2-3 Saginaw Valley State comes to Commerce for the second of a three game home stand. First, though, let’s take a quick look back at last week:
ENJOY THE CUPCAKES-This turned to be a rout, but all in all, Ft. Lauderdale was not a terrible football team. This was a team ravaged by the COVID pandemic, forcing them to cancel three of their first five games, and only suited up 37 players for last week’s contest. The Eagles had some outstanding speed at some skill positions, and kept battling the entire game. A lack of size and depth was their undoing. Every team has these. Alabama has a UT-Chattanooga. Georgia has a Georgia State. Take this win for what it was. Almost, if not all, players on the Lions roster saw significant action and some first and second teamers took a much needed rest.
JUST WIN, BABY- Again, borrowing from the late Al Davis. If the Lions keep winning, they’ll end up 9-2, with losses to #1 West Florida, and #20 Midwestern State, who lost to an unranked Central Washington team on road late Saturday.
Digging a little deeper, the opening win over Colorado State-Pueblo suddenly looks very good. After dropping their first two games against the Lions and #14 Grand Valley State, the Thunderwolves have won three straight against 3-1 Colorado Mesa, 3-2 South Dakota School of Mines, and 4-1 Black Hills State.
Matter of factly, the entire Division 2 Top 25 was in turmoil this past week. #1 West Florida trailed 29-3 to a 2-3 Delta State team before rallying for a 39-33 win. #5 Colorado School of Mines had to go to overtime with a 4-1 Western Colorado team. #6 Notre Dame of Ohio lost 38-28 to University of Charleston. #9 West Georgia lost 38-20 to West Alabama. and #10 Wingate struggled with a 2-3 Tusculum team, 43-35. The point of this? The 2021 Division 2 football season is a real roller coaster of a ride, and fortunes that seem down, suddenly are on the way back up. Have faith, Lion fans. The fun is just beginning. Now, onto Saginaw Valley.
OVERVIEW-The Cardinals are a mixed bag. Coming in to this contest at 2-3, are they the team that took #3 Ferris State to overtime, and that hung tough with #20 Bowie State before losing , 28-19? Or are they the team that were beaten handily by #14 Grand Valley State, and Wayne State? The Cardinals also own a 13-9 win over Texas A&M-Kingsville.
There are some areas in which the Lions hold a distinct advantage. The Cardinal quarterback has thrown 10 interceptions on the year, and the arm strength and decision making is questionable. The defensive line, while having good size, can be pushed around. On special teams, the Cardinals have had problems getting field goals blocked.
The Lions come in at a deceiving 3-2 record, but on the rising tide of a two game win streak, with an offensive line establishing their dominance, and the running back by committee approach taking effect. The Blue Gang, now well rested, is in full attack mode and chomping at the bit to reestablish themselves as the best defense in all of Division 2.
BY THE NUMBERS-
Points- 33.2 ppg
Total- 311.6 ypg
Lion Offensive line- 6’4″ 308 lbs.
Cardinal Front Six-6’4″ 269 lbs.
The Saginaw Valley defense is led in tackling by senior linebacker Victor Abraham (6’4″ 230 lbs.) with 45 (27 solo). He is followed by fellow linebacker Trevor Nowaske (6’3″ 235 lbs., Jr.). Sophomore defensive back Michael Woolridge has 29 tackles (10 solo).
The Cardinal defensive front, while having good size and experience, has shown a propensity to be pushed around at times. It is extemely important for the Lions to establish their dominance early, and put that running back depth to use.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-
Lion Movers and Shakers- 6’1″ 212 lbs.
Cardinal Back Line- 6’0″ 192 lbs.
The Cardinal secondary of the aforementioned Woolridge, senior Marvin White (5’11” 186 lbs.), junior Nick Whiteside (6’1″ 200 lbs.), senior Tim Kidd-Glass (6’1″ 180 lbs.), and junior Noah Suber (5’10” 185 lbs.), are a good blend of experience and ablilty, but have a tendency to surrender the big play, averaging 231.0 yards per game. The Lion receiving corps of Cooper, Childers, Ledee, and Kenedy Snell will have opportunities to exploit.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-The Cardinal return game is anchored by sophomore wide receiver Derrick Hinton, Jr. (5’8″ 160 lbs.) who had 13 kick returns for a 21.6 yard average, with a long of 45 yards, and also has 6 punt returns for a 15.0 yard average, with a long of 47 yards.
Senior Jake Viquez continues his excellent work, going 7 of 9 on field goal attempts, with a long of 52 yards. Redshirt sophomore Emmanuel Adagbon has become more consistent, and has been far more effective that his 29.0 yard average on 10 punts would indicate.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF-
SAME SONG, SECOND VERSE-Strike Hard, Strike Fast, No Mercy. The Lion offensive line must come out and establish their dominance early. If they are able to control the line of scrimmage and get the running game going, it makes offensive coordinator Billy Riebock’s goal of balancing the offense that much easier, and opens up the playbook.
AVOID THE SILLY MISTAKES-The pre snap penalties continue to be a problem at times for David Bailiff and his staff. These kinds of penalties are absolute drive killers. This has to be a focus going forward.
EYES ON THE PRIZE-The events of this past week, and the announcement of the Lions moving to joining the Southland Conference, joining Division 1 FCS in 2022, is an exciting thing. That, though, is next year. For now, the focus is Saginaw Valley State, and the Lone Star Conference. The Southland will be here soon enough.
RISING TIDE-It appears that the inconsistency on offense, and the third down issues have been answered. The Lion ship seems to have been righted, and it’s now full steam ahead. If the Lions are able to stay focused, and play their game, they should have a very good night and future going forward.
ALL IN, ALL OUT-The Lions don’t have much room for error with two losses. They need to continue give maximum effort. play to the whistle blows, and the rest will take care of itself.
Buckle up, Lion fans. We’re getting to the good part.
See You At The Hawk.