Joe Price

LSC – Playoff Previews Week 2 – An LSC Thanksgiving!

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Both Lone Star Conference teams had a great showing last week with wins over 2 NSIC teams in the first round of the NCAA Playoffs. They survive to see another week. Now, we are down to 16 teams left in league play. This week will pit the highly-favored Central Washington Wildcats from the GNAC against Texas A&M Commerce and Midwestern State travelling to take on Minnesota State – Mankato. If both teams can find a way to win this week, they will have an all - LSC team Super Region 4 Final Game. However, these teams have to focus on 1 week at a time.

I was truly proud to see both teams win in the playoffs. Not to say that I didn’t believe that they couldn’t win but it is difficult to win in the playoffs and the NSIC is a great conference with many quality opponents.

Harlon Hill Trophy WATCH

The Lone Star Conference has 2 players named to the list of 34 students for the Harlon Hill Trophy.

QB Luis Perez, Texas A&M Commerce

QB Layton Rabb, Midwestern State

#5 Midwestern State (10-0) v. #2 Minnesota State Mankato (12-0): Saturday, November 25th Noon CST - Mankato, Minnesota

The Mustangs of Midwestern State survived a 17-point deficit last week to USF with a quality comeback in a ‘very’ windy game. Even in the difficult passing conditions, QB Layton Rabb was able to pass for 239 for 2 TDs and only incurred 1 sack. MWSU Head Coach Bill Maskill indicated that, “The development of our Offensive Line and our QB (Layton Rabb) has really progressed well, even better than we anticipated or expected. We believed that our receivers would be good but needed that QB to get the ball to them. Rabb has done just that. He makes good play decisions and we are better for it. We were quite surprised by our capability of passing the ball in the windy game conditions last week.”
The Mustangs have struggled some on defense this season, compared to their typical squads; however, the offense has been one of the best units that they have had on the field in many years. The passing capabilities are there and the rushing capabilities of Rabb, RB Adrian Seales and RB Vincent Johnson have been stellar (RB combined rushing – 1,547 yards and 24 TDs). The offense is scoring 44.7 points on average compared to Mankato’s 39.8 points per game (very close in scoring).

The Mankato defense will be another top-quality unit that the Mustangs will be going against. The Mavs are #5 in Total Defense, while USF is #2. We can probably expect another low-scoring affair. Additionally, Mankato has the #4 ranked Rushing Defense (71.9 yards per game). Unfortunately, the Mustangs are not a heavy running team as in years past; as they have the #10 ranked passing offense (312.8 yards per game). The Mankato secondary is probably the weakest component of their overall team, giving up around 194 passing yards per game. Thus, I expect the Mustangs to have success throwing the ball if the weather (wind) conditions are right.
“We have had a list of things happen to the Mustangs Football team this season. From the tragic passing of Robert Grays to stuff happening on trying to go play in Florida and turning around in Louisiana. The resilience of this team has amazed me. They have matured and grown-up together in the face of all of this adversity and never complained about the issues,” said Maskill.

The team of Mankato is a really good football team and have shown that, as they survived in overtime last week against Colorado State – Pueblo at home and survived 3 turnovers (2 INTs, 1 fumble). The Mavericks defense is only giving up on average 13.6 points per game.

“Mankato is good at running the ball, they are physical up front with a big line. RB Nate Gunn and RB Justin Taormina each have over 1,000 rushing yards. Additionally, their FG Kicker is probably one of the best in the country (has hit a 63-yard FG and 95.5% made FGs, only 1 miss),” said Maskill.

Game Analysis: What a game this should be. Right now, the weather is calling for the wind to be between 10 to 15 mph, far better conditions than last week in Wichita Falls. In my opinion, this game comes down to the Mustangs Offense. Will Mankato be able to slow down Midwestern State, specifically the passing game? I definitely believe that the Mavericks are going to score some points and have success on the offensive side of the ball. They may struggle in the red zone against the #10 red zone defense. The niche in the armor lies in the Mankato Secondary. I feel that this is by far the best passing team that Mankato has seen all season, and maybe the most versatile offense. I don’t believe that Mankato can stop the Mustang offense all-game long and that is what turns this game in favor of Midwestern State. The Mustangs survive in Mankato, Minnesota.

Midwestern State 34 Mankato 31

#8 Texas A&M Commerce (10-1) v. #10 Central Washington (11-0): Saturday, November 25th 2 PM CST - Ellensburg, Washington

The Lions of Commerce have advanced past the first round to face a good Central Washington team that is the #1 seed in Super Region 4. CWU had a first-round bye for the first week of the NCAA Playoffs.
Commerce will take their #1 Passing Offense (360.5 yards per game) against the #3 Defense of Central Washington (244.5 yards allowed per game). In addition, the #16 Offense of Central Washington (464.5 yards per game) will go against the #16 Defense of Texas A&M Commerce (281.9 yards per game allowed). This Commerce defense has stood-out nearly all-season, when I asked Head Coach Colby Carthel what made this defense special, he replied: “Unselfishness. That is the word that I think signifies our defense and has been the key to their success this season. We play so many players each and every game on that side of the ball, and our players have really bought into that philosophy. Throughout a game, we will rotate players in and out at every position, which allows us to stay healthier throughout the season and play at a very high level. Our defensive players may not get the post-season accolades they deserve at the end of the year (because they don’t play as many plays as other players in the LSC), but our team is better for it. Their unselfishness has allowed us to field a defense that gives up far less points and yards than any other team in the LSC, which has played a huge role in our success this season.”

Let’s face it, both of these teams rank high in the majority of statistical categories, probably why both are in the playoffs. CWU QB Reilly Hennessey (wears #4) has been an outstanding player this season (161.21 rating, 67.61% completion percentage, 2,286 passing yards, 26 TDs and 6 INTs). On top of that, the Wildcats rushing game has netted a total of 2,686 yards with 30 TDs by multiple rushers.

When Coach Carthel was asked about Central Washington, he indicated: “After watching them on film, there is no doubt in my mind they are going to be the best team we’ve faced this season. They have beaten some good teams this year, and beaten them badly. Coach Shoemaker and his staff have done a great job building this program over the last few years. Defensively they are one of the nation’s best, so our offense will have to play really well to put points on the board. Offensively they are very balanced, have a great QB, and play a fast pace with a lot of different formations. Our defense will have their hands full on Saturday.”

I certainly agree with what Coach Carthel had to say about the Wildcats. They are good and they are balanced! This Central Washington team has the difficult task to play each of their conference foes twice in a season, something that the LSC has been a part of in the past. We all know what a tall order it is to be good teams once, let alone twice. The Wildcats have done that. Also, these teams have 2 common opponents this season in Texas A&M Kingsville and North Alabama; having similar results in those matchups. Certainly, hard to tell if one is more superior by looking at common opponents.

I concluded my conversation with Coach Carthel about what he thought about last week’s playoff win and what they would have to do this week to overcome such a quality opponent in Central Washington. “It was great to get the win up in Winona, against a really good NSIC team. It had been since 1990, when this program had last won a road playoff game, so it was good to see Lions Football take yet another step forward. The guys played tough for 60 minutes and overcame a lot of adversity to get the win. This week, I think the biggest key will be the play of our OL. The CWU defense leads all of college football with nearly 60 sacks (58 in 11 games). The Wildcat DL plays as hard and physical as any group I’ve seen in several years. That will be a fun matchup to watch Saturday, as it will have a direct impact on the outcome of the game. It should be an exciting game to watch, as these are two really good football teams. We’re hoping Saturday we can win the turnover battle, make a few key plays, and find a way to prevail.”

Game Analysis: I cannot say this enough. What a game this should be! I am excited about this contest just writing this game preview. Saturday cannot get here quick enough. TAMC QB Luis Perez versus CWU QB Reilly Hennessey. I have to think long and hard about who will win this game and what the difference-maker will be. The forecast calls for light rain and winds only at 5 mph, which is key for a passing team. The wind is the entire matter to try and pass the ball around. The rain is a little bit of a hinderance but not nearly as much as the wind, in my opinion.

The team that doesn’t give up the big special team plays and doesn’t turn the ball over, wins this one. I feel that if turnovers are generated in this game, that the opposing team will capitalize on it and put up points with the momentum.

Man, this looks like to be a classic game in the making. Ultimately, I think that the passing attack of the Lions makes this game obtainable.

Texas A&M Commerce 24 Central Washington 23

Be safe and God Bless!
Joe Price,

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