Greetings, Lion fans, and we are fast approaching the end of what has been the most disappointing season in recent Lion football history. There are some bright spots to be had, however. If UT-Permian Basin upsets Midwestern, and A&M-Kingsville is somehow able to upset Angelo State, then the Lions will have a share of the Lone Star Conference title, as improbable as it may seem. With a possible bowl bid and win, the Lions could conceivably finish 8-4. While 8-4 would be a cause for celebration at most schools, in Commerce it is a cause for sadness and doubt.
Now, though, is not that time. There is still at least one more game to play, and while it may not make much of a difference in the overall scheme things it is a game, and one to WIN. So let’s break down the matchup with our friends from Portales.
BY THE NUMBERS-
Points- 28.2 ppg
Rush- 139.8 ypg
Pass- 191.7 ypg
Total- 331.6 ypg
Blue Gang Defense:
Points- 14.1 ppg
Rush- 97.8 ypg
Pass- 130.9 ypg
Total- 228.7 ypg
Turnovers- 23 (+7)
The Greyhounds have improved much quicker than anticipated in the switch from the run heavy Flexbone to a more wide open, pro style offense. While moving the ball well at times, the big problem for Eastern has been turnovers, with 16 interceptions, and 10 fumbles lost. In somewhat of an unexpected development, instead of a more traditional four and five wide Air Raid, the Greyhounds instead operate out of a two wide out, two tight end, and one running back set.
Even after the debacle in the Concho Valley last week, the Blue Gang is still ranked #4 overall in the country in total defense. They are fourth in pass defense, seventh in scoring defense, tied for eighth in sacks, and twentieth in rushing defense. Brian and I here art The Wire would be more than willing to bet that there’s not a team in the rest of Division 2 that wouldn’t love to have the Lion defense right now.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Greyhound Offensive Line- 6’2″ 251 lbs.
Blue Gang Front Six- 6’1″ 262 lbs.
The Greyhound offensive front, while very young, have decent size and strength. They are led up front by senior Vili Fisiiahi (6’1″ 295 lbs.).They have done a fine job in adjusting from run blocking to more pass blocking schemes.
The Blue Gang front six are led by a trio of defensive linemen, senior defensive end Elijah Earls (6’0″ 240 lbs.), who leads the Lions with 6 sacks. Junior Anthony Hayes 6’5″ 260 lbs.) is close behind with 5 1/2, and redshirt sophomore Celestin Haba 6’3″ 235 lbs.) , who has 5. The defensive line, particularly the interior, have done an excellent job in jamming the middle of the line, and allowing the linebackers to roam and make plays, and the back line to support the run.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Greyhound Movers and Shakers: 6’2″ 187 lbs.
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 186 lbs.
The Greyhounds are led in rushing by freshman Russell Howard (6’1″ 200 lbs.) , with 532 yards on 98 carries, a pair of touchdowns, and a long of 57 yards. Redshirt senior Currie Thomas (6’0″ 230 lbs.) has 380 yards on 97 carries, four touchdowns, and a long of 15 yards. Sophomore Isaiah Tate (5’10” 190 lbs.) has 271 yards on 59 carries, with a touchdown, and a long of 21 yards.
Freshman Nathan Valencia (6’3″ 185 lbs.) has done an outstanding job in directing the Eastern offense, completing 146 passes in 289 attempts, for an average of 186.2 yards per game, 20 touchdowns, and a long of 95 yards. Valencia’s Achilles Heel has been the interception. He’s thrown 15 this season. If there’s a real advantage, this is where the Lions hold it.
Former Greyhound star running back Justin Manyweather(5’9″ 175 lbs., Sr.) has moved to wide receiver, and hasn’t missed a beat. Manyweather has 726 yards on 46 catches , 11 touchdowns, and a long of 95 yards. Junior Martavius Dill (5’7″ 180 lbs.) has 348 yards on 37 receptions, with one touchdown, and a long of 60 yards. Senior Zachary Fields (6’4″ 200 lbs.) has 21 catches for 226 yards, 6 touchdowns, and a long of 39 yards. This is a dangerous and explosive group that will test the Blue Gang back line to it’s limit.
The Lions back line is led by redshirt senior Dominique Ramsey (5’9″ 180 lbs.) with 46 tackles (26 solo), redshirt junior Darius Williams (5’9″ 185 lbs.) who has 42 tackles (22 solo), and redshirt senior Alex Shillow (5’10’ 185 lbs.), who has 41 tackles (21 solo)They are the core and the strength of the Lion defense.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED- Freshman Patric Talbot is the Greyhound punter, averaging 35.6 yards on 31 punts, with a long of 61. Freshman Cooper Hamilton is the Eastern kicker, and is 4 of 6 on field goals, with a long of 40 yards.
This Saturday will be the final home appearance of one of the greatest Lion kick returners of all time in Dominique Ramsey. As the legendary NFL coach Bum Phillips, once said:
“ I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself, but it sure doesn’t take long to call the roll.:
Ramsey, despite teams just simply refusing to kick in his general direction, Ramsey has still averaged 15.2 yards on 28 punt returns, with a touchdown, and a long of 62 yards. He also has averaged 23.4 yars on 11 kickoff returns, with a long of 44 yards.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF-
Make no mistake, Eastern New Mexico is a better football team than their 4-6 record would indicate. Their offense is very explosive, and much more balanced than in the past. The defense, while young, has potential. Their problem has been turnovers. If the Lions are able to focus, maintain some heart and grit, they should win this one.