The Blue Gang Notebook: Lions Defense vs. Huskies Offense

Greetings, Lions fans, and as the saying in radio goes…”the hits just keep on coming.” After giving up one touchdown after a turnover on a short field, and a 12 play, 87-yard drive, and aided by a well-timed David Bailiff motivational lecture, the Blue Gang defense shut the door. An early 15-7 Lion deficit turned into a 40-15 bludgeoning. Four sacks. Two interceptions. A fumble recovery. All in a day’s work.

Fans last week in Lake Charles learned what we already knew, and the rest of the Southland Conference is about to find out. Whatever name you know them by- East Texas State, or Texas A&M-Commerce, the defensive unit known as the Blue Gang can play defense and play it well. What began in 1971 with the architect of the original, the late Bobby Fox, and was passed down through the seasons to Eddie Vowell, who would follow Ernest Hawkins as the Lion coach with most career wins, to Mark Copeland, who would put a stamp on the program as a player and a coordinator, to Justin Deason, who rebuilt the embers into a roaring fire, Scott Power then took over and brought a spicy addition in the form of all out pressure, who then handed things off to Xavier Adibi, who brought his own intensity. Kyle Williams takes the reins of more than a group of individuals, but of a unit. A force. A mentality.

That mentality celebrates the 50th anniversary of the original this Saturday, when the 1972 team will be rightfully honored and remembered. They were the first, and one of only two seasons that line the exterior of The Hawk.

Fast forward to the present, and a closer look at the Houston Christian University Huskies.

OVERALL:

Huskies Offense:

Points: 21.6 ppg

Rush: 91.0 ypg

Pass 239.1 ypg

Total: 330.2 ypg

Turnovers: 9

Blue Gang Defense:

Points: 17.6 ppg

Rush: 126.7 ypg

Pass: 134.3 ypg

Total: 266.0 ypg

Turnovers: 11

In the days of the spread offense, and the passing game having become dominant and more intricate, the days of a dominant defense holding opponents to 150-200 total yards per game may well be a thing of the past. The Lions have done an excellent job of limiting yards per attempt in both rushing and passing.

The Huskies offense has been rather pedestrian this season, but this is a team with the majority of athletes from the Houston area, which is ripe with football talent. This group is not to be overlooked.

UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE:

Huskies Offensive Line: 6’3″ 282 lbs.

Blue Gang Front 6: 6’1″ 247 lbs.

The Huskies offensive line is a good blend of youth and experience, headed by senior William Brewer (6’4″ 187 lbs.), junior Christian Hood (6’4″ 265 lbs.), sophomore Dion Daniels (6’4″ 265 lbs.), sophomore Andrew Alvarado (6’5″ 280 lbs.), and freshman Nolan Hay (6’4″ 275 lbs.). This is a big, athletic group .

The heart of the Blue Gang defense is the linebackers, senior Dee Walker (6’2″ 224 lbs.) who had 33 tackles (13 solo), and fellow senior Michael Noble (6’2″ 216 lbs.) who had 36 tackles (20 solo). What makes this heartbeat is the defensive line, led by senior Celestin Haba (6’2″ 250 lbs.), sophomore Bryson Stewart (6’0″ 269 lbs.), and a pair of sophomores, Clifford Funderburk (6’2″ 235 lbs.) and Leon Young (5’10” 271 lbs.). Constant rotation and substitution allow the linemen to remain fresh and keep the pressure on the offense.

MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE:

Huskies Movers and Shakers: 6’1″ 189 lbs.

Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 174 lbs.

The Huskies are led in rushing by a pair of freshmen running backs, Ismail Mahdi (5’9″ 180 lbs.), who had 279 yards on 50 carries, 1 touchdown, and a long of 78 yards. Freshman Nate Livingston (6’1″ 200 lbs.,) had 37 carries for 205 yards, and a long of 44 yards.

Sophomore Justin Fomby (6’3″ 195 lbs.) directs the Huskies offense. Fomby is 140-236 for 1,377 yards, 11 touchdowns, and a long of 74 yards. He has thrown 6 interceptions.

Junior Karl Reynolds leads the Huskies receivers with 28 catches for 424 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a long of 66 yards. Senior Vernon Harrell (6’4″ 215 lbs.) had 21 catches for 251 yards and a long of 43 yards. Ismail Mahdi has also proven to be a threat out of the backfield, with 12 catches for 163 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and a long of 74 yards. .

The Lion back line is led by senior Darius Williams (5’10” 189 lbs.) who has 39 tackles (29 solo). Junior Dariyon Taylor (5’10” 158 lbs.) has 31 tackles (18 solo). Sophomore Kendall Paul (5’8″ 157 lbs.0 was named Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week in last week’s win over McNeese, and they are joined by sophomore Jordan Polk (5’11” 177 lbs,), and sophomore Maxwell Epps (5’11” 189 lbs.). This group may have started out young, but have matured quickly, and have well-handled every challenge thrown at them. They play hard, they play smart, and do they every lay out the big hits.

VERY SPECIAL, INDEED: The Huskies punter is senior Brady Buell, who has an outstanding 43.9-yard average on 39 punts, with a long of 67 yards. He is truly a weapon in Head Coach Vic Shealy’s arsenal.

Junior Alberto Arroyo is the Huskies place kicker, and he is 6-8 on field goals, with a long of 42 yards. He is a perfect 11 of 11 on extra points.

Freshman defensive back Sean Krystoff-King (5’9″ 178 lbs.) finally snapped the Lions out of the kick returns doldrums, with a 59 yarder to open the second half last week that was a hair’s breadth from going all the way. He has 5 returns for a 31.0-yard average now.

Having faced several very good opposing punters the last few weeks, senior B.J. Busbee does what a good returner does- handle the ball without a muff. Busbee has 10 returns for an 11.0-yard average, and a long of 27 yards. .

THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF: Houston Christian is a team that appears to pretty one dimensional. They do not run the ball particularly well. If the Blue Gang is able to make them rely on the passing game, then the feeding frenzy that is sure to occur among the defensive line and linebackers will be a sight to see.

Houston Christian comes to Commerce with a 2-4 record and off of a home loss to Northwestern State, 37-10. and will be aching to remove the bitter taste of defeat from themselves this week. They own wins over Nothern Colorado and Lamar and have some talented skill position players that can do some damage.

This pride of Lions is growing up quickly before our very eyes, fans. The offense is finding it’s rhythm and are creating new ways of getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands. The Blue Gang is, well the Blue Gang. Except now they are playing with a really mean streak. Where every play is a street fight, and every yard is contested.

This is a very good team, Lion fans. One that has come faster and farther than anyone thought they could. And after a 4-2 start that has seen four of the first six in places like Cookeville, Tennessee. Huntsville. Lake Charles, Louisiana. Hammond, Louisiana, now see four of the final five games, including their biggest conference test remaining, Incarnate Word, in the friendly confines of The Hawk.

This is getting good, Lions fans. Better than even we here at The Wire anticipated. Buckle up, it’s going to be a ride.

See You at The Hawk.

Roar Back Here.....

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