Missed Opportunities Overshadow Solid Defensive Effort
Lions Offense Misfires in Loss to Austin College
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- In a game that featured golden opportunities for both teams, only one cashed in to make the happy ending each desired.
The Kangaroos were given a pair of gift-wrapped, first quarter possessions in the SAGU red zone, turning them into a quick 14-0 lead. Southwestern however, battled back and refused to let their misfortune start a snowball effect. That was a tribute to the coaching staff and the strong player leadership on the team. And a very good crowd at Lumpkins Stadium rewarded the Lions effort by refusing to leave until the clock reached zeroes.
Their lead swelled to three scores in the second quarter. Austin College drove 34 yards before being forced to punt from their 46 yard line. Instead of getting the ball back, a penalty was called against the Lions for having 12 players in the huddle, resulting in a Roos first down. Three plays later senior quarterback Travis Zambiasi (9-of-15, 134 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) connected with a wide open Greg Harrell (5 catches, 79 yds, 1 TD) on a 41-yard bomb.
Southwestern held Austin College to only 201 yards of total offense, just 43 in the second half, had several chances to get back in the game.
Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS, Texas State) promptly drove the Lions 70 yards in 14 plays, reaching a first and goal at the AC five yard line. They key plays were a 10-yard pass to Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Lee HS), runs by Rice and Chris Eiland (Quinlan, Tx / Ford HS) (56 yds on 14 attempts, 4.0) and a short pass to Darion Waits (Waxahachie, Tx / Ennis HS), who broke a tackle and nearly scored after picking up 24 yards.
From the five, Rice (11-of-27, 89 yds, 1 INT) missed Dylan Moore (Denton, Tx / Guyer HS) in the corner of the end zone. His next attempt was intended for Waits (6 receptions, 66 yds), who was open on a crossing pattern in the end zone. But not for long. The would-be TD pass was picked off by linebacker Kenneth Eneh, who stepped in front and snatched the ball away.
The score remained the same at the half, with AC holding a slight 152-132 edge in total offense.
The third quarter saw the Lions tighten their grip on defense, but the offense sputtered against an Austin College defense that had 10 upperclassmen starters. Still, the Lions gained 232 yards for the night.
Defensive Player of the Game
Free Safety Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) picked off his second pass of the night to set the table for the offense at the Roos 41 yard line. SAGU drove to the 24 yard line before stalling. On fourth down, Rice was stopped by LB Ethan Tanner.
The Lions got on the scoreboard on their next possession when James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) booted a 36-yard field goal.
Inspired and still hopeful, the defense kept the pressure on. After LB Jacob Kirksey (Fort Smith, Ark / Southside HS) sacked Zambiasi, Rodney Johnson (Springfield, Mo / Parkview HS) deflected Phillip Richardson's punt, giving the Purple Pride the ball at the AC 44. The team reached the 19 yard line after four straight runs, one of them a 12 yard dash by Rice (64 yards on 16 carries, 4.0).
Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Jesse Godding called for a screen pass to Eiland on third and seven from the 21. With guards Mike Thomas (Washington, Tx / Brenham HS), Jacob Anderson (Tulsa, Ok / Union HS) and full convey in front, and only one defender in their path, what appeared to be the perfect call went awry when Rice's toss went over the outstretched arms of Eiland. Gish trotted onto the field and salvaged things with a 39 yard kick with 0:59 remaining in the third.
It has been said that nothing is so often irretrievably missed as an opportunity. Such was Saturday.
Following a very short punt that gave the Lions possession at the Kangaroos' 35 at the start of the fourth stanza, the parade of good fortune continued with a pair of penalties against the visitors. SAGU would reach the seven yard line, but halfback Eddie Bailey (Milwaukee, Wisc / John Jay HS) was tackled in the backfield on fourth and four to stymie the Vegas Gold Rush. The drive had eight plays, seven of them were runs. The only pass was dropped by a wide open receiver.
The squandered tries to reach the end zone had taken their toll. Finally the Kangaroos assembled a long drive of their own, marching 88 yards in 12 plays, led by sophomore QB Blake Towery (4-of-9, 31 yds, 1 INT). 5-foot-8 RB Brogan Funderburg (43 yds, 18 attempts, 2 TDs), breaking two tackles along the way, scampered five yards for his second TD of the game, effectively clinching the game with 3:17 to play.
Looking simply at the box score, it would appear the Lions should have won. They held a team that led their conference in rushing the past four years to only 40 yards on 33 carries. The Lions, who averaged 260 yards passing per game in 2009, could gain only 89 through the air on Saturday. On the plus side, the ground game that had only one 100 yard game effort last fall, churned for 143 and nine of the team's 16 first downs.
Vinson was a ballhawk in the secondary. His first of two interceptions came in the second quarter on a deflected pass inside the Lions 10 yard line.
One assistant coach said following the game the SAGU defense did plenty to win the game, with a long list of contributing players. Even with the talented arsenal of talent at the offense's disposal, "to be fair, it takes some time for cohesion to develop on offense. They are very young and they played against some salty veterans." To be sure, the SAGU Two-Deep offensive roster revealed 17 of the 22 players were not on the team last September.
As for the mistakes that hindered them Saturday night, all are fixable. That gives plenty of room for encouragement as well as the motivation to improve.
The litany of chances that slipped through their fingers left the Lions feeling they lost a game rather than having an opponent who actually won it.
On Deck: Howard Payne, Sept. 11, 6:00pm
Southwestern travels 135 miles to Brownwood, Texas next Saturday for 6:00pm clash with Howard Payne University. The Yellow Jackets lost their opener to Trinity University (San Antonio), 40-34, in double overtime.
Next Home Game: Sept. 18
The Lions next home game is in two weeks when Trinity Bible College comes to Lumpkins Stadium for a noon kickoff. The TBC Lions are from North Dakota. The game will be broadcast over the internet, live, via video streaming in high-definition on the SAGU Sports Network.
Rebroadcast of Austin College Game
A rebroadcast of the game, taped from the live streaming of the the SAGU-Austin College game, will be announced on Monday, according to producer, John Cookman. The replay could be shown Monday night.