Nov. 15, 2012
BEAUMONT - After picking up a win last week over Nicholls, history will on the mind of the Lamar football program as the Cardinals hit the road for Lake Charles, La., to close out the 2012 season vs. rival McNeese State on Saturday at Cowboy Stadium.
With a win, it would mark the first over the neighbors to the east since re-starting the football program in 2010, and it would also secure a third win for the Cards over an FCS opponent this season, which would be another first since 1989.
Also on the line will be Sammy Carpenter's 60-year old touchdown record. The former star running back picked up 13 scores in the 1952 season, and up until last week, the mark was unmatched in school history. Kevin Johnson tied it with a 15-yard TD grab early in the first quarter last week vs. Nicholls. The sophomore, who has scored 10 times receiving, twice returning and once rushing, should have ample opportunity on Saturday to claim the top spot in the LU history books.
The question remains, however, who might be tossing Johnson that potential historic pass, Ryan Mossakowski or Caleb Berry?
Mossakowski made his return to the first string offense last week more than a month after going down to a wrist injury, and the junior was effective, tossing three touchdowns before a hit in the third quarter sent him back to the sidelines. Berry, who offers a bit more mobility to the position, made his impact quickly, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help seal the win for the Cards.
The duo have combined to toss 18 TDs this season, with Mossakowski connecting on 58.5% of his passes for 1,194 yards. Berry has a 50% completion rate with 595 yards.
While Johnson may carry the big scoring numbers, Barry Ford has been the more utilized target, something that was especially true vs. Nicholls. The junior grabbed nine passes for 113 yards and a score vs. the Colonels, giving him team-leading totals in both catches (44) and yards (431).
Jordan Edwards and Reggie Begelton have also been key this season, with Edwards totaling 330 yards and four TDs and Begelton adding 172 yards and a score.
DePauldrick Garrett is the workhorse at running back, and leads LU with 473 yards on the ground on 115 carries, boasting of a 4.1 yard average. Both Darrell Harris and Desmond Richards have also seen their fair share of carries, combining for 399 yards on 92 attempts.
Defensively, the Cards carry the Southland's top-rated pass defense into the season's final weekend, allowing 203.5 yards through the air. A large reason for this has been the play of the secondary, which has seen five different defensive backs pick off at least one pass, led by four from Branden Thomas.
The defensive backfield hasn't been the only group grabbing interceptions, as defensive linemen Mark Murrill and John Prescott each grabbing one over the last two weeks with the latter returning his for his first career touchdown. Linebacker James Washington has an interception return TD as well.
The Cardinals have picked off seven passes over the past two weeks, a feat that hadn't been achieved by a Lamar defensive unit since 1984. Since LU's return in 2010, only Northwestern State and Sam Houston State have matched the accomplishment.
In addition to the passing defense, Jermaine Longino has been key in helping LU to the second-ranked overall defense in the league, recording a conference-best 98 tackles, including 57 of the solo variety. Chad Allen is second on the team with 52 solo takedowns and 76 overall.
Longino has also been a force behind the line of scrimmage, totaling 6.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks. Jesse Dickson leads LU in both, with nine and four, respectively. Murrill has 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
McNeese won't be easy for the LU defense as they enter with the SLC's second-best rushing offense, averaging 204 yards per game on the ground, led by the two-headed rushing attack of Marcus Wiltz and Javaris Murray. Wiltz averages 64.3 yards per game, ranking third in the league, and Murray brings 50 yards per game to the table as well.
The passing offense is fourth, led by the play of Cody Stroud, who ranks third in the SLC with a 194.4 yard-per-game average and a 142.1 mark in passing efficiency. Darius Carey has been his primary target, with 29 catches for 456 yards, and Diontae Spencer has 28 for 349.
Defensively, the Cowboys are most stout in stopping the run game, holding opponents to 122 yards to rank third in the conference. The passing defense gives up 254.6, which is eighth, but overall McNeese allows just 23.3 points per game, the third-best mark in the league.
This week's game marks the 46th in the series, which dates back to 1940. The Cowboys hold a 22-12-1 advantage, which includes an 11-5 mark in Lake Charles.
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on KLVI 560 AM. Harold Mann will have the call, and former LU linebacker Bo Brown will serve as the color commentator.