Lamar welcomes McMurry for homecoming
Lamar University will cap a week of homecoming festivities Saturday evening when the Cardinals welcome McMurry University to Provost Umphrey Stadium for a non-conference football contest. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Cardinals, who have dropped their first two Southland Conference games to fall to 2-4 on the season, will be playing their final non-conference opponent of the 2012 season. McMurry is coming off a 22-19 win over Southern Nazarene to improve to 3-2 on the year.
Saturday’s contest can be heard live in the Golden Triangle on KLVI 560 AM with Harold Mann providing the play-by-play and former LU linebacker Bo Brown serving as analyst. It can also be watched live through the Lamar Athletics Web site at www.LamarCardinals.com/
The two schools have played twice before with each team winning at home. The War Hawks won the first meeting 32-27 in Abilene during the 1953 season, while Lamar took the next game 19-13 in Beaumont during the 1954 campaign.
Lamar will be playing its 42nd homecoming game as a four-year institution and has compiled a 20-20-1 all-time record. Since reinstating the program for the 2010 season, Lamar is 1-1 in homecoming games with a 14-0 victory over Langston in 2010 and a 38-24 loss to Central Arkansas last season.
“It’s homecoming week and we need a big crowd,” said LU head coach Ray Woodard. “Large crowds can make differences in ball games. We do have a home field advantage when we have a packed house and they’re loud. That’s what we need. We’re going to do our best to work hard and represent Lamar, and we appreciate the crowds when they come out. We need them.”
Lamar is coming off a 30-23 road loss to Northwestern State in which redshirt sophomore Caleb Berry got his first start. Berry finished 18-of-36 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Cardinals also got 73 rushing yards from Herschel Sims.
“We had our opportunities,” said Woodard about the loss at NSU. “I’m glad we’re to the level where we’re competing in these games, but that’s not good enough. We have to win these types of games. I was very proud of our team’s effort. I’d like to see that type of effort pay off on the scoreboard.”
Berry got the start for junior Ryan Mossakowski who has an injury on his throwing hand. The Northwest Mississippi Community College transfer had started the first five games of the year and was 87-of-140 for 795 yards and seven touchdown passes.
Defensively, Lamar got a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown by junior linebacker James Washington against the Demons. Fellow junior Jermaine Longino posted his second straight 13-tackle effort and now ranks third in the Southland Conference at 8.8 tackles per game.
As a team, Lamar is scoring 18.0 points per game and allowing 25.8. The Cardinals have averaged just under 270 yards of total offense on the year and are giving up 300.8 to lead the Southland and rank 11th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Sims leads the Cardinals with 289 yards on the ground and has scored a pair of rushing touchdowns on the year. Junior wide receiver Barry Ford has 25 catches for 257 yards to lead LU in both categories, while sophomore transfer Kevin Johnson has scored on six of his 11 catches this season.
In addition to the strong play of Longino, junior defensive back Chad Allen has 40 tackles on the year. Fellow junior Jesse Dixon has six tackles for loss and the defensive end leads Lamar with three sacks on the year.
Lamar will pit the top ranked pass defense in the Southland Conference against one of the top five passing offenses in all of NCAA Division II. The Cardinals are allowing just 152.8 yards passing per contest, while the War Hawks come in averaging 370.6 yards per game through the air.
“The first thing is the no-huddle, try to run 100 plays a game offensive attack,” said Woodard about the problems McMurry presents. “When you’re not accustomed to seeing that every day, getting people on and off the field and creating some tempo can cause you some trouble. It’s tough to simulate in practice because we’re not used to doing that.”
The War Hawks, who are coached by former Kentucky and Southeastern Louisiana head coach Hal Mumme, are coming off a 9-3 record this year. McMurry has averaged 29.4 points per game through its first five games, but is allowing 37 per contest.
Senior quarterback Jake Mullin was selected a NCAA Division II preseason All-America after being named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 2011. Through five games, Mullin is 155-of-223 for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns.
Freshman running back Paxton Grayer has 319 rushing yards on the year with an average of 6.8 yards per carry. Grayer, who has five of McMurry’s eight rushing scores, also has 26 catches for 242 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Greg Livingston has 30 catches on the year for 351 yards and three touchdowns.