GAME: Lamar (4-6, 2-5) at Houston Baptist (4-6, 1-5)
WHEN: Saturday at 2 p.m. at Husky Stadium in Houston. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
WHY IT MATTERS: These teams have had very similar seasons this year which is not what either team wanted or expected.
HBU began the season with a 4-1 record before injuries mounted and the Huskies have lost five straight games.
“Our margins were thin as far as depth,” HBU head coach Vic Shealy said. “We started off and played well in all phases, but it’s been a challenge to overcome the combination of injuries and loss of depth.”
Lamar has had similar results as the Cardinals were 4-3 and primed to make another run at the playoffs before multiple injuries to at the quarterback position led to a three-game losing streak.
“We’ve had a rash of injuries at quarterback which has made it challenging, but our kids have done a great job of facing and meeting the challenge,” Lamar head coach Mike Schultz said. “I’d like to say that we’re the only one in the country that has injuries but everyone in the country has had that problem.”
HBU received good news last week as starting running back Dreshawn Minniweather returned from injury and ran for 145 yards and a touchdown against a good Nicholls defense.
“There’s certain running backs that your offensive line gains energy blocking for and Dreshawn is one of those guys,” Shealy said.
“I’m sure they’ll all be healthy for us,” joked Schultz. “They do a great job offensively, they’re very sound defensively and they’re well-coached.”
The key for Lamar will be at quarterback where Marcellus Johnson will get the start. Johnson was a quarterback during the spring but moved to wide receiver during the fall.
“We’ve had to do some adjusting and we’re trying to fit things to his strengths,” Schultz said. “We’re on our fourth or fifth quarterback right now and I don’t know if I’ve ever had to go this deep into our quarterback depth.”
Despite the injuries, both coaches are proud of how hard their teams continue to play.
“The kids have played extremely hard and I think that’s a tribute to our staff and the good job they do coaching and keeping the players motivated,” Schultz said.
“We still have more good things going on than not and we’re frustrated but the kids are working hard and playing hard,” Shealy said.
INSIDE THE STATS: Both coaches are focused on their offensive production in preparation for the game. Lamar has struggled with the injuries and is averaging 0.315 points per play while the HBU offense is still averaging 0.480 points per play despite recent struggles.
“Consistency is the part that we have work on because turnovers have been a problem for us over the last few weeks,” Shealy said.
“We’ve got to execute the game plan offensively. Take care of the football and take some time off the clock,” Schultz said. “We need to make some first downs and take some time off the clock because the worst thing we could do is give them the ball back because they’re going to score.”
COMPUTER PREDICTION: Houston Baptist 36, Lamar 29
GAME: No. 23 Texas A&M-Commerce (7-2, 6-1) at Angelo State (8-2, 5-2)
WHEN: Saturday at 3 p.m. at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field in San Angelo, Texas. The game will be broadcast on NEXSTAR/KSAN.
WHY IT MATTERS: The NCAA Division II playoffs begin next week. The reality for Texas A&M-Commerce and Angelo State is the playoffs begin this week for both teams.
The Lions are ranked sixth in the Super Region Four rankings and the Rams are seventh. With only seven teams in the region making the playoffs, the loser of this game is likely staying home next week.
“This is a playoff game,” Angelo State head coach Jeff Girsch said. “One of our kids said it was like the Wildcard weekend in the NFL because one of these teams will get to keep playing and you want it to be you.”
“Every coach this time of year wants to go 1-0 so that’s what we’re focused on this week,” Texas A&M-Commerce head coach David Bailiff said. “We’re focused on this game and not what lies ahead.”
One player both coaches agree will be a factor in the game is Lions quarterback Miklo Smalls.
“He’s one of those quarterbacks that likes to go headbutt an offensive lineman. He’s not a prim and proper quarterback at all – he’s tough,” Bailiff said. “His confidence that he’s playing with improves every week and the team believes in him.”
“He’s as good as anybody because he can hurt you running and throwing and we will have our hands full with him,” Girsch said.
With so much on the line for both teams in this game, both coaches are expecting an electric atmosphere.
“I think it’ll be a good crowd. There’s some excitement among the student body along with the community and the alumni,” Girsch said. “The game being televised is a neat component as well.”
“It’s a great time and exciting time for this university. They’ve got a great football team and we have to be ready for this challenge,” Bailiff said. “We’re really looking forward to going there this week and excited to have this opportunity.”
INSIDE THE STATS: Both coaches are expecting a defensive battle on Saturday and the stats agree. The Rams are the best defense is allowing an incredible 0.187 points and 4.3 yards per play while the Lions are allowing 0.319 points and 4.7 yards per play.
“It’s going to be a great defensive battle and hopefully our offense doesn’t struggle as much as their offense,” Bailiff said. “We cannot have turnovers. More games are lost than won and we don’t want to be the team that beats itself.”
“Defensively they’ve been really good every year I’ve been in this conference and this year is no different. They have a very active and physical front line,” Girsch said. “It’s about making the routine plays over and over again and if we can do that, we will have a chance to win this football game on Saturday.”
COMPUTER PREDICTION: Angelo State 31, Texas A&M-Commerce 26
GAME: Austin College (5-4, 4-3) at No. 20 Berry (8-1, 6-1)
WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m. at Williams Field at Valhalla Stadium in Mount Berry, Ga.
WHY IT MATTERS: A win by Austin College in their final game of the season would have major ramifications on the national playoffs and the Southern Athletic Association title.
“This game is big nationally because it has national and conference implications but it’s also big for us because it’s the last time we get to play together as a team and we want to make sure that we go out on the right note,” Austin College head coach Loren Dawson said.
Berry would clinch the SAA title and an automatic playoff berth with a win while a win by the ‘Roos combined with a win by Trinity would give the conference title and playoff bid to Trinity.
However, defeating the Vikings will not be easy especially on the road.
“There are some really good teams in this conference, and the standings reflect that, but I think Berry is the best,” Dawson said. “I think Berry is the best team we’ve played all year and I think they’re the best team in this conference.”
Dawson knows that Berry will come out ready to play and the ‘Roos will face adversity during the game.
“There’s always bumps in the road in the games you win, and the key is being able to overcome those bumps and punch back,” Dawson said. “We’ve done really well this year as a team overcoming those bumps and just respond. We talk to our kids about that all the time and not just about football.”
Responding to adversity has been a trademark of the ‘Roos this season.
“I do think that’s the biggest team between this team and the team’s we’ve had in years past – they’re a very resilient team,” Dawson said. “We don’t care about style points or the margin of victory, we just want to sing in our locker room after the game.”
INSIDE THE STATS: Berry has one of the top defenses in the country and the Vikings have only allowed 0.190 points and 4.4 yards per play this season.
“Their defense is very, very, very good – one of the best defenses I’ve seen since I’ve been in Division III,” Dawson said. “There’s no holes in their defense. They do what they do, and they do it well and there’s no way to isolate a guy because they don’t have a weak link.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us on offense. We’ve got a good plan and it’s a matter of whether we can execute it and sustain the bumps in the road.”
COMPUTER PREDICTION: Berry 34, Austin College 18
OTHER SMALL COLLEGE GAMES:
No. 23 Southeastern Louisiana 30, Abilene Christian 29
Sam Houston State 37, Northwestern State 20
New Mexico State 37, Incarnate Word 24
No. 13 Central Arkansas 33, Stephen F. Austin 24
No. 24 Nicholls 30, McNeese 26
Prairie View A&M 68, Edward Waters 0
No. 3 Tarleton 44, Western New Mexico 21
West Texas A&M 33, Midwestern State 25
Western Oregon 36, Eastern New Mexico 27
UT Permian Basin 32, Texas A&M-Kingsville 30
No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor 40, Sul Ross State 13
East Texas Baptist 36, Louisiana College 26
No. 13 Hardin-Simmons 37, Southwestern 18
Texas Lutheran 41, McMurry 19
Howard Payne 29, Belhaven 28
Trinity 28, Rhodes 15
No. 16 Ottawa (Ariz.) by 40 over Southwestern Assemblies of God
Arizona Christian by 35 over Texas College
No. 21 Langston by 14 over Wayland Baptist
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