Greetings, Lion fans, and while we’ve said that every game beginning with Western New Mexico has been a playoff game for the Lions, this week’s trek to San Angelo for a date with the Angelo State Rams an even bigger one.. Angelo State arrives this week with a record of 7-2, 3-2 in the Lone Star Conference, and a #5 ranking in the latest Super Region 4 rankings. Basically, it comes down to this. The winner of this game still has an opportunity to make the Division 2 playoff. The loser is eliminated. On a side note, there are a lot of head to head matchups in the region, and a Lion win, especially a big one, would give their playoff hopes a huge boost. The playoff herd will definitely be thinned this week, and Brian and I will have more on that in the coming days. For now, though, let’s take a closer look at the Rams.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Points: 33.0 ppg
Rush: 170.1 ypg
Pass: 162.6 ypg
Total: 332.8 ypg
Turnovers: 14 (+9)
Points: 17.0 ppg
Rush: 67.6 ypg
Pass: 174.4 ypg
Total: 242.0 ypg
Turnovers: 9 (+9)
The Rams traditionally have a very stingy defense. In their last trip to the Concho Valley, the Lions scratched and clawed their way to a 14-3 win. Look for much of the same. The Lion offense, while sputtering for the majority of the season, made some adjustments in the second half of the UT-Permian Basin game, and became more efficient, although not as explosive. The running game has struggled in spots this season, so they will certainly face a very severe test in a Ram defense that allows just over 67 yards per game. The strength, though, for the Lion offense, lies in the balance and diversity of the offense. Running back by committee, and spreading the passing targets around, while not very flashy, more than gets the job done.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE:
Lion Offensive Line-6’4″ 308 lbs.
Rams Front 7: 6’1″ 256 lbs.
The Rams strength lies in their linebacking corps, led by senior Kyle Hunter (6’3″ 230 lbs.), who leads the team with 58 tackles (29 solo), sophomore Daron Allman (6’1″ 211 lbs,) who had 45 tackles (25 solo), and also leads the Rams in sacks with 4, and senior Josh Qunton (6’1″ 240 lbs.) who also has 45 tackles (25 solo). The defensive line is huge, led by senior G’Karri McCoy (6’0″ 301 lbs.), sophomore Tre’Darious Colbert (6’2″ 346 lbs.,), and junior Weston Bauer (6’1″ 263 lbs.,). Much like the Lion defensive strategy, the linemen are there to keep blockers tied up, and allow the linebackers to roam free and make plays.
The task of the Lions offensive line is to focus on eliminating the holding penalties that they have struggled with at times this season, and keep the pre snap infractions to a minimum. They have done a great job protecting the passer, and were much better in picking up the various pressure packages brought by UTPB this past week.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Lion Movers and Shakers: 6’1″ 212 lbs.
Rams Back Line : 6’1″ 176 lbs.
The Rams back line is a solid, experienced group, led by the ever present Leddy French II (5’11” 185 lbs., Sr.), who seems to have been in the Ram secondary for 10 years. Redshirt freshman Andrew Pitts (5’9″ 156 lbs.,) leads the team in interceptions with four.
Lion quarterback Miklo Smalls continues to make great strides in his return from injury , completing 63 of 105 pass attempts, 5 interceptions, for 761 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a long of 74 yards. He also has had several big runs, forcing defenses to account for another runner.
Speaking of runners, redshirt senior Antonio Lealliiee continues to lead the Lion rushing attack with 385 yards on 64 carries , a touchdown, and a lonf of 73 yards. Redshirt senior Carandale Hale is right behind Lealliiee, with 353 yard on 64 carries, three touchdowns, and a long of 28 yards. Senior J.T. Smith has shown some real flashes of speed and breakaway ablility with 312 yards on 33 carries, four touchdowns, and a long of 39 yards. Smith had a very nice 11 yard burst for a touchdown last week on a direct snap out of a Wildcat formation.
The Lion receiving corps continues to be led by senior Chance Cooper, who left last week’s game after a blow to the head. It is unknown at this time if Cooper will be available to play come Saturday. Cooper has 29 catches for 374 yards four touchdowns, and a long of 65 yards. Redshirt junior Matt Childers has 302 yards on 25 catches, a pair of touchdowns, and a long of 44 yards.
The Lion offense, while not explosive or flashy, except in spots. The sharing of the load , both run and pass, has served the Lions well, and losing a single player due to injury has not had as much of an effect as normal.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED- The Rams have a solid return game, led by the aforementioned Andrew Pitts in the punt return game, averaging 12.2 yards per punt return, with a long of 80 yards. Sophomore running back Alfred Crear (5’6″ 180 lbs.) has 4 returns for a 39.2 yard average, with one touchdown, and a long of 90 yards.
The Lion punting game has been ably handled by redshirt freshman Mitchell McGarry, who has a 36.7 yard average on 20 punts, with a long of 59 yards. McGarry has been outstanding in limiting opponent’s return yardage, either keeping the ball away, or kicking the ball out of bounds.
Redshirt senior Jake Viquez was 2 of 3 on field goals last week, with his only miss being from 52 yards out. Viquez is 15 of 21 on the season, with a long of 52 He has done an outstanding job of recovering from the occasional miss to deliver when the Lions need him the most .Viquez is also working his magic with the pooch type kickoffs that have frustrated the opponents.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF:
LIMIT THE MISTAKES-The holding and pre snap miscues have to be kept to a minimum. They have absolutely killed drives and momentum that the Lions had to have at times.
ADJUST AND ATTACK-The Lion offense struggled again in the first half, struggling to establish a running game, and attacking the whole field. To the coaching staff’s credit, they made adjustments in the second half, and began to chip away at a stout Falcons defense. They’re certainly facing another this week.
SAME SONG, SECOND VERSE-With all the big head to head games in Super Region 4 this weekend, the Lions absolutely cannot afford to get caught watching the scoreboard. There is no room for error on either side.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE HORSE BEING BLIND, JUST LOAD THE WAGON-Next play, next series. Just focus on one play at a time, and win this game. The rest will take care of itself.
See You Saturday.