Football Lions take on Steers in Tyler
Win in season finale would end streak
SAGU looks to avenge 2010 upset loss to Texas College
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The frustrations of a string of five successive defeats can be eased on Saturday afternoon in Tyler when Southwestern Assemblies of God University concludes the 2011 college football season with their finale at Texas College.
The 2:00pm kickoff on artifical turf at All-Saints Stadium will pit the only two NAIA football teams in the state. There are about 300 members in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, with 84 fielding football teams.
SAGU, who once ranked nationally after a 3-1 start; enter the game at 3-6. The host Steers are 0-10, and have just one win their previous 29 games. It came at the expense of the Lions in last year’s closing contest, 27-13. Texas College is 3-39 since late in the 2007 campaign.
They hired a new head coach this fall, the home-grown George Cumby. The graduate of Tyler’s T.K. Gorman High School played in the NFL for eight seasons, six with Green Bay, after being a three-time All-American at Oklahoma.
Southwestern holds substantial advantages over the Steers, making them a natural favorite in the game. Similarly, the Lions were expected to triumph last November, especially after getting off to a quick 13-0 lead. The Steers regrouped and posted a 27-13 curative win at Lumpkins Stadium. Saturday’s outcome will probably be a likely tonic for the victors.
The Steers take chances on both sides of the ball, by throwing the long ball and mixing up their defensive coverages with plenty of blitzes. While the numbers do not reflect great progress this season for the Horns, they have steadily fought their way through adversity.
A week ago in a clash with Langston University (7-2, 4-0 CSFL), the current leader in the Central States Football League, the Steers held a 14-9 lead at the half. While outgained 358-188, they averaged over five yards per play, including 6.5 per carry. Their ground attack of 183 yards negated the LU Lions rushing game of 189.
Langston didn’t take the lead for good until midway through the fourth quarter, 16-14, before pulling away in a 29-14 win. LU can clinch the CSFL title on Saturday with a road win at Southern Nazarene University (8-2, 3-1 CSFL). The kickoff for that game will transpire at 1:30pm in the Oklahoma City suburb of Bethany.
When the Purple Pride were rolling at 3-1, the defense was scoring in every game and ranked #8 in the NAIA in least yards allowed. In the five games since, they have slid to #54, allowing 376 yards per game to opposing offense. The secondary has been the culprit, at times with missed coverages or surrendering big, third down passes.
Texas College, a year after having one of the bottom five defenses, has improved to #58 at 385 yards for enemy offenses.
The SAGU offense ranks #35 in yards gained per game (366). They are even higher (#28) in points per game (29.9). The Steers, who also wear purple and gold, are last in the NAIA in yards (120) per outing.
Lions who could roar in the City of Roses
Southwestern can equal their season-high for wins in a season (4) by sawing off the Steers. SAGU went 4-5 three years ago.
The Lions will likely continue their season-long dual quarterback attack, led by 6’2 senior Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Texas State Univ, Faith West HS). He has completed 47% of his passes for 939 yards and 9 touchdowns, while rushing for 369 yards and three scores.
Sophomore transfer Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) has comparable statistics. He is completing 53% of his throws for 846 and 7 TD’s. He is a quick elusive runner, racking up 472 yards and a team-best 5 TD’s.
The team also divides the carries between two running backs, junior Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Taylor HS) (339 yards, 4.0 per carry, 1 TD), and Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) (286, 6.2, 3 TD’s).
SAGU has a number skilled wide receivers, led by senior David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS) (42 catches, 14.7 per reception, 8 TD’s) and freshman Max Whitfield (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) (23 catches, 17.5, 3 TD’s), who will miss the finale.
Nick Morphew (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) (13, 12.0, 1 TD) and Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) (10, 16.9, 0 TD) will get more reps with Whitfield and Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Midland Lee HS) (12, 14.7, 2 TD’s) out on Saturday.
The Lions defense is led by a cast of senior linebackers in Richard Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) (7.9 tackles per game), Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) (5.1) and Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian) (4.2) and defensive tackle Jonathan Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS) (4.0). Freshman outside ‘backer Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS) (4.8) has enjoyed a steady first year.
Six different defenders have solo interceptions, including O’Shae Cofer (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS).
The Lions have been the victims of turnovers, about three per game, and several second half breakdowns. Together they have short-circuited what could have been their first season on the sweet side of .500. A 4-6 finish will put a positive capper on a season chocked full of missed opportunities.