LU football season kicks off Saturday
The Lamar University football team opens the 2015 season Saturday against Bacone College with a 7:00 p.m. kick off from Provost Umphrey Stadium. It will be the Cardinals first game since knocking off rival McNeese State on a last second field goal in Lake Charles, La., last season to secure an eight-win season and ty a school record for wins (as a four-year institution).
After recording its best season since re-starting the program, and one of the best seasons in school history, the Cardinals entered preseason camp with a lot of excitement. For the first time since its resurrection, the Cardinals enter the year receiving votes in the preseason top 25 poll. Oddly, that recognition didn’t translate into much respect from the voters in the conference preseason polls being picked eighth by the league coaches and sports information directors.
The lack of respect from conference’s preseason polls had a lot to do with the fact that LU graduated the school’s all-time leading passer, Caleb Berry, and because the team doesn’t return a quarterback from last season. The returning players haven’t allowed that to serve as a distraction.
“We’ve had a very productive camp,” said Woodard. “We’ve had a lot of guys bouncing around doing things right on the field. This has been a fun group to coach through camp. All of the guys were excited for the start of game week, and now they are ready for Saturday to get here.”
While the Cardinals are looking to build off of the momentum gained from last season 8-4 campaign, their week one opponent is looking to erase the bitter memory of 2014. The Warriors went 0-11 on the season averaging fewer than 13 points per game.
“There isn’t a lot of information that we have on Bacone,” said Woodard. “Coach (Lawrence) Livingston is in his first season as the head coach, although he has been with the program in the past. He has also brought in two new coordinators. We’ve gone back and looked at some film from schools they have coached at trying to find tendencies. This is very similar to our season opener last year against Grambling State. They had a new coach to start the season as well. We are going to have to do a great job as coaches and players of making adjustments during the game.”
One of the biggest storylines in the Southland this offseason has been LU’s quarterback battle. “Who will be the starter,” is a question Woodard would assume not hear for the rest of the season, but that is a question that may not have an answer even after the final horn sounds Saturday.
“I’m getting to the age where I can now say ‘I’ve done this for a while,’ and I can’t recall a time in my career where I’ve been associated with a team that doesn’t have a quarterback on the roster from the year before. We have all new faces, and we don’t feel comfortable handing the ball to just one guy until we’ve seen them play in some games.”
The top two contenders for the top spot since the spring have been transfers Joe Minden (Stephen F. Austin) and Carson Earp (Navarro College). Minded ended preseason camp having completed 13-of-17 (.765) passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, while Earp was 21-of-32 (.656) for 304 yards and two scores.
Regardless of who eventually wins the starting nod at quarterback, he will be surrounded by numerous starters from last year’s squad. Big Red returns 20 starters from 2014, including preseason All-SLC selections Reggie Begelton (receiver), Kade Harrington (running back), Justin Brock (offensive line), Xavier Bethany (safety) and Omar Tebo (defensive line).
History appears to be on the Cardinals side entering the 2015 opener. The Cardinals are four games over .500 in season openers, and hold a 3-2 (.600) record since bringing back the program. LU is nearly unbeatable (34-9-1/.784) in home openers, including a perfect 5-0 since football’s return.
Saturday’s season-opening contest against the Warriors will be LU’s lone home game in the first month of the season. Following the opener, the Cards will hit the road for games at nationally ranked Baylor, Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana.