Defense takes on #11 SNU
Challenges await on Big Stage
Lions (3-1), Storm (4-0) meet in litmus test
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Saturday night’s college football game for Southwestern Assemblies of God University has a whole new feel.
True, the Lions will play their first home game in the renovated and expanded Lumpkins Stadium in the 6:00pm (CST) kickoff. The added amenities and improvements will be apparent to fans, including the opportunity to view the game in seatback chairs.
After twelve years of gradually building its football program from its infancy, SAGU, like Simba , is coming of age in the Pride Lands. The team has a 3-1 record and is listed among the nationally ranked teams in the NAIA.
Southwestern has a huge litmus test awaiting on Saturday as they play host to #11 ranked Southern Nazarene University, from Oklahoma City, Ok. The Crimson Storm will roll into town with a 4-0 ranking.
Whether the Lions can roar like Mufasa against the likes of SNU is the big question. But playing games that matter at mid-season and beyond could become something this team grows to welcome!
Fresh off a 46-2 thumping of Haskell University (Ks) last week, SAGU will be going up against a Storm defense rated #2 in the country. The Lions, with five different receivers catch a touchdown pass while racking up nearly 600 yards of total offense against the Indians, will face a stiffer challenge against SNU.
About Southern Nazarene
Facing a loaded Southern Nazarene team, however, will be a tall order.
Coach Mike Cochran’s offense is tops in both points per game (52) and total offense, averaging 543.3 yards per outing. Senior QB Brady Wardlaw is tops in the country in TD passes (16), throwing four per game and gaining 297 yards per outing as well.
Wardlaw is no stranger to SAGU. He is 2-0 against the Purple Pride as a starter and threw for 506 yards in last year’s 35-21 SNU victory. The Storm trailed early in the third quarter, 13-7, before breaking the game open. His favorite target is sophomore Jarod Martin, who has caught 18 passes for four TD’s with an average pick up 18 yards.
Equally impressive is his array of 16 receivers, all who have caught at least one of Wardlaw’s passes.
Derick Perkins, a junior halfback, leads the team with 351 yards rushing. He gains 5.7 yards per carry, with six plays finishing in the end zone.
The story from their campus in Bethany, Oklahoma is not about the Storm’s offense, but rather, their defense. In 2010 they yielded 34.3 points and 438 yards per game, the latter rating #77 in the NAIA.
This fall the Storm Chasers are surrendering just 11.8 ppg and 173 yards, which has earned it a #2 ranking nationally. Michael Hicks, a 6-2, 225 freshman linebacker, leads SNU by making 10 tackles per game.
Southwestern could be 4-0 had they held onto the ball better in their road opener. They came up short, 29-21, to Bethany College (Ks), primarily due to four turnovers and a several errant center snaps.
The Lions have steadily improved, topping Howard Payne University, 21-15; Austin College by a 35-13 count, then cruising past Haskell. Turning the ball over, however, is likely the team’s key concern. They have committed in 14 in four games.
SAGU’s spread-option offense has shown plenty of progress as well as the ability to strike from anywhere on the field. Senior QB Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Katy Faith West HS) and sophomore backup Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ) have led the team with both their legs and arms. Rice is averaging 164 yards of offense per game while the speedy Golson contributes 149.
The Lions are paced by senior wide receiver David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS), who has snared 19 for two TD’s. Sophomore Nick Morphew (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ) has eight catches and Max Whitfield (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) averages over 20 yards on his six receptions.
Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Taylor HS) and Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) have both latched onto seven passes, while Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Midland Lee HS) may be the club’s long threat. He has five catches for 2 TD’s and a 20+ yard average. The latter threesome are all swift-afoot.
Golson leads all Jungle King rushers with 242 yards, picking up 4.6 per carry and scoring four TD’s. Haynes (152 yards) and Rice (149) are steady ball carriers, while Cade Leuschner’s (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) 5.8 yards per tote is the best on the squad.
Overall, the Lions are scoring at a 35 ppg clip, and have begun to get on track on offense. Their 379 yards per game is #27 in the NAIA.
Southwestern, like SNU, has a defense that is 'bringing the pain.' The Lions allow just 221 yards to opponents, which is #8 in the NAIA. They have permitted only five TD’s in four games, which is less than the Storm’s six. In fact, the defense has scored in all four games, including four TD’s and a safety.
The top three tacklers wearing the golden domes are linebackers; seniors Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) (6.5 per game) and Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) and freshman Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS).
Game broadcast on HD livestream
The game can be viewed on-line in HiDef for no cost by going to the Southwestern website: www.sagu.edu and clicking on Watch SAGU TV. The livestream quality is considered the best in the NAIA. The broadcast pre-game show starts at 5:45pm.
Clay Scarborough, a local teacher for the W.I.S.D., is the host and play-by-play announcer for SAGU Sports Live. A student, Tim Roberts, is the color analyst.
Southern Nazarene will offer a live, written account of the game, called LiveStats, as well as a separate audio feed. All fans are welcome to tap into the livestream, livestats and/or live audio. The links to the latter two are:
Live Stats: http://livestats.snu.edu/football/xlive.htm
Live Audio: http://www.snuathletics.com/sports/2011/3/10/streaming.aspx