Greetings, Lion fans, and in this week’s edition of the Notebook, we’ll break down the Lions biggest matchup of the season so far, what should prove to a true measurement of just where the Lion football program is, and where it needs to go. First, though, a quick look back at the debacle that was Tennessee Tech.
A LOOK BACK- One might look at the stats from last week, and on the surface would see that the Blue Gang was shredded for 454 total yards. The most obvious question would be “How did they give up that many yards and not get blown out?”
Here, Brian and I will try and answer that. Most apparent is the fact that the Blue Gang was on the field for 74 plays, the majority of which were in the second half. They were left on the field for too long as a result of the offense figuratively grinding to a halt. After Eric Rodriguez’s injury on the first drive of the second half, the play calling became extremely conservative, with simple runs, and a short, controlled passing game. This accomplished two things, neither of which turned out well: 1. it allowed an otherwise average Tennessee Tech offense to creep back into the game after the Lions had forced five turnovers. 2. It allowed the Golden Eagle defense to bring a safety down into the box and play seven and eight men close to the line of scrimmage. Add to that substitution problems on extra point attempts, and indecision on field goal attempts, and this game added up to exactly what it was- a repeat of what we began to see in 2021. A Lion team that runs out to a significant lead. only to squander it late in the second half.
At this point in the season, however, there is always the next week. and this week, it brings the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. Let’s take a look.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Points: 1.5 ppg
Rush: 124.0 ypg
Pass: 101.0 ypg
Total: 225.0 ypg
Ponts.: 16.5 ppg
Rush: 142.0 ypg
Pass: 167.0 ypg
Total: 309.0 ypg
As much as the Lions have struggled so far this season offensively, the Bearkats have not much better. Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Yates (5’11” 205 lbs. Gr.) has struggled with pass protection from his offensive line so far, and the running game has had problems at times.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE:
Bearkat Offensive Line: 6’4″ 301 lbs.
Blue Gang Front Six: 6’1″ 247 lbs.
The Bearkats are very imposing across the offensive front, averaging over 300 lbs. They are anchored by lineman Jordan Bowman (6’6″ 310 lbs. Gr. Trans-Houston), and Wade Willett (6’6″ 300 lbs., Gr. Trans. Cal Poly). There are a trio of holdovers from the spring 2021 national championship season, redshirt freshman D’Ary Patton (6’4″ 290 lbs.), junior Ethan Hagler (6’2″ 305 lbs.), and redshirt senior Moses Johnson (6’5″ 300 lbs.).
The Blue Gang front six are led in tackles by senior linebackers Dee Walker (6’2″ 234 lbs.) and Michael Noble (6’0″ 216 lbs.), Walker with 14 (5 solo), and Noble with 11 (3 solo). The defensive line, anchored by senior Celestin Haba (6’2″ 250 lbs.) and sophomore Clifford Funderburk (6’2″ 235 lbs.). The defensive line has done a very good job tying up the offensive line, allowing Walker and Noble to roam free and make plays.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:
Bearkat Offense: 6’0″ 200 lbs.
Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 174 lbs.
Yates as a passer is 27-54 for a 101.0 yards per game average. he also leads the team in rushing with 184 yards on 32 carries. Running back Dezmon Jackson (5’11” 220 lbs., Gr. Trans. Ok. St.) has 83 yards on 21 carries.
The Bearkats are led in receiving by junior Ife Adeyi (5’10” 170 lbs.), the hero of the 2021 spring national championship game, grabbing a touchdown pass from Eric Schmid with 16 seconds left in the game. Adeyi has 7 catches for 79 yards. Junior Noah Smith (5’10” 190 lbs.) had 7 catches for 53 yards and graduate transfer tight end Jax Sherrard (6’5″ 240 lbs., Davidson) had 6 catches for 43 yards.
The Lion secondary is led in tackles by junior Dariyon Taylor (5’10” 185 lbs.) with 19 (10 solo), senior Darius Williams (5’10” 189 lbs.) with 16 (13 solo), and sophomore Maxwell Epps (5’11” 189 lbs.) with 10 (5 solo). The Lion secondary has three interceptions this season so far, including Epps’s pick six against Lincoln in the opener. They have done a very good job to this point in run support, and coverage improved greatly against Tennessee Tech. Sam Houston will provide their greatest test to this point.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED: The Bearkat punting chores are ably handled by redshirt freshman Jadon Cardell (6’0″ 185 lbs.), who had 15 punts for a 41.5-yard average, with a long of 50 yards. Sophomore Seth Morgan (5’11” 160 lbs.) is 1 of 2 on field goals, with a long of 44 yards.
The Lion return game is beginning to pick up with senior J.T. Smith (6’0″ 178 lbs.) averaging 26 yards on three returns. Sophomore B.J. Busbee (5’7″ 149 lbs,) averages 11 yards on two punt returns so far. Freshman Aiden Martin has continued to be solid on kickoffs.
THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF: The Lions will certainly have to play their best game of the season in order to pull this one off. Make no mistake, it will be a very tough test, but one they can pass if offense will open up and control the ball. If they are able to do that, not turn the ball over, and keep the defense off the field for long stretches, especially in the second half, then they will give themselves an opportunity to steal this one.
Lion fans, this will be a tough one. One that might not seem possible on the surface. It’s the kind of game that the Wizard, Ernest Hawkins, would have loved. The kind of upset that the Lions have been known for.
See You in Huntsville.