Greetings. Lion fans, this week in the Notebook, we’ll take a closer look at the Saginaw Valley State Cardinal offense, and how they match up with the Blue Gang of A&M-Commerce. First, though, a few quick notes concerning last week:
THIRD DOWN SHUTDOWN-The upward trend in getting off the field on third down continued last week, as Ft. Lauderdale managed only 2 conversions in 14 third down situations. No matter the opponent, or level of talent, those are outstanding numbers. It allows the defense to rest and not wear down late in the game.
PRESSURE, PRESSURE, PRESSURE-While not providing gaudy sack numbers, the front six of the Lions have been on a two week binge now of constant pressure and harrassment of opposing quarterbacks. They have had to step up in the pocket, roll out one way or the other, or have taken hits just when releasing the ball. Timing has either been off or rushed. In some cases, this is far more effective defensively.
NEED A PROGRAM TO KEEP UP?-The stockpile of talent and depth that the Lion coaching staff has been able to accumulate is paying off. They are able to rotate at least three deep on every position group, and are constantly substituting. This keeps everyone fresh and playing their best for the full 60 minutes.
THROWING A BLANKET OVER IT-The back line of the Blue Gang was expected to be good, but they are really coming on strong, and at the right time. Every route, and every catch is contested. Tackling has been superb.
Now, onto the Cardinals…..
BY THE NUMBERS-
Blue Gang Defense:
The Cardinals are a well balanced offense, that has been inconsistent at times, but also is capable of the explosive output (lost 47-45 in OT to #3 Ferris State), but also have had a problem with turnovers.
The Lions come into this middle game of a three game homestand on a roll. Third downs seemingly have been remedied, and the player rotations have been worked out, and they’re ready to roll.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Cardinal Offensive Line: 6’4″ 290 lbs.
Blue Gang Front Six; 6’1″ 262 lbs.
The Cardinal offensive line has good size, but is very young (3 redshirt freshmen, ,1 junior, 1 sophomore), evidenced by the 15 quarterback sacks allowed. Sophomore Marcellus Anderson (6’5″ 330 lbs.) is big and quick, and shows lots of promise.
The Blue Gang are led in tackles by a pair of linebackers, sophomore Michael Noble (6’0″ 230 lbs.,) and redshirt senior Xavier Morris (6”0″ 225 lbs.,) with 31 and 23 tackles, respectively. Senior defensive end Elijah Earls(6’0″ 240 lbs.) has 19 tackles, along with a team leading six quarterback sacks. Earls is also among the team leaders in pressuring the quarterback.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-
Cardinal Movers and Shakers: 6’1″ 217 lbs.
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 186 lbs.
The Cardinals are led in rushing by senior running back Tommy Scott (5’9″ 187 lbs.) who had 504 yards on 87 carries, 5 touchdowns, and a long of 44 yards. Scott is ably assisted by fellow senior Chris Nelson (5’10” 205 lbs.), who had 81 yards on 33 carries, with a long of 8 yards. Scott and Nelson are smallish backs that are patient enough to hide behind that big offensive line, then run to daylight.
Junior Matt Considine (6’6″ 220 lbs.) is the Saginaw Valley quarterback. A big and tall pocket presence at 6’6″, Considine has 77 completions in 158 attempts for 986 yards and 5 touchdowns, with a long of 63 yards. He has also thrown 10 interceptions.
The Saginaw Valley receivers are led by junior Casey Williams (5’11” 200 lbs.), who has 34 catches for 450 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 40 yards. Senior tight end Isaiah Johnson-Mack (6’3″ 230 lbs.) had 20 receptions for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a long of 63 yards.
If the Lions are able to get pressure on Considine, whether with the front four, or the occasional blitz package, they should be able to force some turnovers
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-Junior Connor Luksic (5’11” 240 lbs.) does the kicking and punting for Saginaw Valley, and is 9-14 on field goals, with a long of 37 yards. He has had at least one field goal blocked. He also in 14 of 14 on extra points. Luksic has been very good in the punting game, averaging 42.2 yards on 19 punts, with a long of 65 yards.
Redshirt senior Dominique Ramsey (5’9″ 189 lbs.) continues his outstanding work in the return game for the Lions, and his numbers are starting to climb. Ramsey has 6 kickoff returns for an average of 22.6, with a long of 45 yards. He also has 9 punt returns for a 22.0 yard average, with a long of 44 yards. Ramsey has had several returns that have been just a hair’ breadth away from a score.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF-
DIALING IT UP-By any means necessary. The Cardinal quarterback has shown questionable arm strength, along with an even more questionable decision making capability. If the Blue Gang is able to generate some pressure, either through sending the occasional defensive back or linebacker, as well as the front four, the turnovers should come, and come quite frequently.
HITCH YOUR WAGON LOW-The Cardinals might be 2-3, and inconsistent at times, but they have shown some explosiveness and ability to put up the points. They have taken #3 Ferris State to overtime, and hung tough with #20 Bowie State before bowing, 28-19. This is not a team to overlook.
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON-Third down conversion rates are dropping. Quarterback pressures are rising. The Blue Gang is beginning to play with something coaches love, a nasty streak.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE HORSE BEING BLIND, JUST LOAD THE WAGON-A strange phrase, perhaps, but then it was uttered by the coaching and broadcasting legend that is John Madden. Meaning-Stay focused on the task at hand. West Texas A&M and Angelo State are coming soon enough. This week, it’s a very capable Saginaw Valley State team.
A GROUP EFFORT-Now is the time to pack The Hawk. I can tell you from experience, players perform better with a full and raucous house. That proud , old venue that is Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium has certainly seen it’s share of both, and is more than capable of doing it again. Players, coaches, fans, and support staff-we’re all in this together.
It’s time to get rowdy. It’s TIME TO HUNT
See You at The Hawk.