Football Preview: SAGU at Haskell
Lions look for fourth straight over Indians
Defense and hot Rice could lift Cats to 3-1 start
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Off to their best start in their young history, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team will have to go a long way to move to 3-1 this season. Literally, over 500 miles.
The Lions will be in Lawrence, Kansas for a 2:00pm game against Haskell University. Both schools are members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I.
About the Haskell Fighting Indians
Haskell, with an enrollment of 1,000, are off to a slow 0-4 start during a new coaching regime. SAGU, 2-1, own a 4-3 edge in the series. The Lions have, however, won the last three meetings, including 29-15 last year.
HINU is 18-55 over their last seven seasons, with a pair of 4-7 campaigns as high-water marks. This season’s rebuilding squad is led by senior quarterback, Ryan Alden. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound veteran from Walla Walla, Washington, is no stranger to SAGU.
Alden’s second-best passing performance in 2010 was against Southwestern, when he threw for nearly 250 yards. He racked up 1,500 yards through the air last season, producing nine TD’s.
In this year's season-opening 42-35 overtime setback against a winning team, Alden showed what he can do. He completed 34-of-59 for 444 yards and four scores. Five interceptions, however, proved costly.
Their past two ballgames, against Southern Nazarene University and Bacone College, who are in the same Central States Football League that SAGU competes, were big losses. SNU and the Warriors both eclipsed 500 yards in total offense against HINU. What has been a silver lining in recent weeks has been a secondary that has intercepted six passes.
Football fashion this fall features purple
Southwestern is coming off a 35-13 triumph in Sherman, Texas over Austin College. The Kangaroos, who had won four of five versus SAGU since 2006, led 13-7 in the second quarter after a couple of offensive hiccups by the Lions.
SAGU’s defense has been very steady in the opening weeks of the season. They have yielded only five TD’s in three games, which they’ve almost made up for by scoring four themselves.
Ranked #19 in the nation in total defense, the Lions have surrendered an average of 263 yards per outing, not once allowing an opponent to gain 300. Compared to 2010 totals, these Lions are roaring!
Last year SAGU was #47 nationally in defense, giving up 367 yards and 40 TD’s in their 2-8 campaign.
Jonathan Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS) leads a young front four. The linebacking unit in the Lions 3-4 scheme has proven to be quick, aggressive and unrelenting so far.
Seniors Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) and Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) anchor the inside, while 6’4 Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian) is a playmaker on the edge. Freshman Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS) is making an impact on the opposite side of Smith.
The defensive backfield is getting stronger with the return of former NAIA All-American Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) and senior Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS), who have been out with injuries. They are finding the younger starters are not all too willing to give them back their position. Cornerbacks Marcus Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS) and Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS) are excelling in their man-to-man coverage.
While the defense at SAGU has been a rock, the offense broke out last week. Senior QB Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS) earned the CSFL Offensive Player of the Week honor after connecting on 18-of-26 for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scoring strikes were snared by junior Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Midland Lee HS). They covered 50 and 31 yards as Rice was clicking on all cylinders in SAGU’s spread option offense. (Rice pictured above with a backfield of Sean Haynes and Cade Leuschner)
His go-to receiver remains 6’3 senior David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS). He leads the team with 14 catches. Max Whitfield (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) caught three balls last week, and is just one of a talented crew of wideouts.
October 1 could be major clash
Should the Lions come away with a win against Haskell on Saturday, it would set the stage for perhaps their biggest home ever.
Next week, October 1, they play host to Southern Nazarene University (Ok), who are ranked #12 in the nation. The game could be a match-up of the Lions at 3-1 and the Crimson Storm at 4-0.
The 6:00pm clash will take place at Lumpkins Stadium and will be broadcast over the internet by SAGU Sports Live. The high definition livestream will be accessible to the public free of charge.