Small College Review: Top takeaways, Helmet Stickers and Plays of the Week

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A Field Goal Affair

Who said field goals are not sexy? Certainly not No. 8 Texas A&M-Commerce, who rode the leg of kicker Jake Viquez to a 12-6 win over No. 12 Colorado State-Pueblo on Thursday night in the Dave Campbell’s Small College Game of the Week.

Don’t expect the Lions to apologize for winning over a top-ranked team within their region while playing their first game in over 600 days. On a night when the wind was a huge factor, TAMU-Commerce relied on “Mr. Reliable,” Viquez, who connected on 4-of-5 attempts with a long of 52 yards.

The Lions’ defense was superb throughout the game, holding CSU-Pueblo to a mere 155 yards of total offense with only 15 rushing yards allowed to one of Division II’s top perennial rushing attacks. TAMU-Commerce will likely be in every game this season thanks to a championship-caliber defense.

HPU Impressive in Opening Game

Howard Payne has been one of the most improved teams in the country over the last three years. The transformation began three years ago under former head coach Braxton Harris, and current head coach Jason Bachtel has continued the upward trajectory.

Saturday was a perfect example of the Yellow Jackets’ improvement in a 43-17 win over Texas Lutheran. Bachtel’s first game at the helm of HPU was a 39-38 loss against TLU. However, to say Bachtel and his staff spent the last few months improving the team would be an understatement.

The Yellow Jackets offense will receive most of the headlines after posting 655 total yards, but the defense impressed this writer the most. Jason Bachtel hired his brother, Kevin, to be the HPU defensive coordinator during the offseason.

Stats are sometimes misleading, which is the case when one notices the HPU defense allowed 358 total yards to the Bulldogs. But a deeper look shows the Bulldogs averaged 4.5 yards per play, with most of Texas Lutheran’s yards coming in the fourth quarter against the Yellow Jackets’ second team.

The WAC is Back

Some conferences across the country were delighted to have football return after more than 600 days without a game. The Western Athletic Conference was straight giddy for football when SFA and Tarleton kicked off on Saturday to end a streak of 3,199 days without a conference game in the WAC.

The game didn’t disappoint either, with the ‘Jacks earning a tough 20-10 win over the Texans. SFA head coach Colby Carthel improved to 7-1 against Tarleton, with his only loss to the Texans coming in the NCAA Division II playoffs, his final game at Texas A&M-Commerce.

This contest was a great measuring stick for both programs. The ‘Jacks are continuing the process of building into a contender under Carthel and Tarleton, beginning its second season in transition to the FCS level.

SFA won the battle at the line of scrimmage with the ‘Jacks offense producing 164 yards rushing while the Texans only gained 70 rushing yards. The offensive and defensive lines have made great strides under Carthel.

Tarleton was again plagued by an inconsistent performance that was an issue at times during the spring, surrendering an early 10-point lead to the ‘Jacks. The inconsistency is not unexpected for a program building through the high school ranks.

Helmet Stickers

Ramon Jefferson, Sam Houston State

The defending FCS national champions and preseason No. 1 team opened their season with a convincing 42-16 road win over Northern Arizona Thursday night. The Bearkats offense picked up where they left off during the spring producing an impressive 562 total yards.

Ramon Jefferson was the highlight of a ground attack that gained 294 yards against the Lumberjacks. The junior transfer from Maine had 143 yards, and a touchdown on 11 carries for an impressive 13-yard per carry average.

Mary Hardin-Baylor offensive line

The Crusaders have a legitimate shot at earning their third national title in six years this season. UMHB opened the season at No. 1 in the poll and rolled to an 84-6 victory over Simpson College.

The Cru set an American Southwest Conference record during the blowout with ten rushing touchdowns against the Pipers. In addition, the UMHB offensive line earns a helmet sticker this week after Jacob Dailey, Hayes Chizer, Gabriel Weitzman, John Kazmierski, Wyatt Crawford, and Cameron Williams paved the way for five different players to rush for a touchdown en route to 330 yards rushing and 601 total yards.

MSU defensive line

Midwestern State wanted to set the tone for the 2021 season after suffering the program’s first losing season under coach Bill Maskill in 2019. On Saturday, the Mustangs achieved the first step towards a winning record with a 48-27 road win over Quincy (Ill).

After allowing 20 points in the first half, the MSU defense stiffened in the second half behind intense pressure from the Mustangs’ defensive line. Jaylon Abdul-Karim, Melik Owens, Zach Trevino, Zed Asowata, James Williams, Alex Alvarado, and Konner Jones-Searcy combined for six sacks in the contest earning the group a helmet sticker.

Plays of the Week

Prairie View A&M earn a convincing 40-17 win over rival Texas Southern Saturday night in the Labor Day Classic. Panthers freshman linebacker Jessie Evans laid this massive hit on the Tigers’ running back, forcing a fumble that eventually led to a Panther touchdown.

Hardin-Simmons rolled to a 49-0 win over Wayland Baptist at home last Saturday. The Cowboys gained 395 yards passing, but the most impressive catch of the night was this 19-yard touchdown from Kyle Jones to Kevi Evans. Evans displayed next-level concentration to catch the tipped pass and take it to the house.

HSU - 

On Saturday, Southwestern Assemblies of God University opened its season with a 20-13 comeback victory over Louisiana College. The Lions scored two touchdowns in the final 8:20 of regulation, and the comeback began with this beautiful 23-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Barlow to Jamal Long.



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