The Baylor Bears will host the Lamar Cardinals at McLane Stadium on September 12th at 6:30 pm. The Cardinals bring back 20 starters from an 8-4 team that was one of the most successful in school history. Featuring one of the best offenses in the FCS, Lamar looks to improve its recent performance against FBS power conference teams. A 73-3 demolishing by the Texas A&M Aggies was their second game of 2014. In 2013, they lost 59-3 to fellow Big 12 member Oklahoma State.
The eight wins in 2014 were the most the Cardinals have had in their recent incarnation. A 19 year span without football from 1990-2009 was ended in 2010. They were welcomed back as full football members of the Southland conference in 2011, but finally had their breakthrough last year in their 8-win campaign.
5th year Head Coach Ray Woodard has been the main driving force behind the Cardinals' rebirth. They have ridden a high flying aerial attack to success in 2014 with since graduated quarterback Caleb Berry leading the way. With Berry gone, Woodard will have to choose a new quarterback between senior Joe Minden, Junior College transfer Carson Earp, or freshman Charles McKenzie. Minden is the most experienced of the three options, and is the current front-runner.
Whoever the quarterback is though, he will have one of the best receiver groups in FCS to pass to. Senior Reggie Begelton is already the career leader in receptions for Lamar, and was chosen first team All-Southland this preseason. Alongside him will be second team all-Southland Devonn Brown along with Georgia transfer Brendan Langley.
In 2014, the Cardinals ranked 5th in FCS total offense bu averaging 503 yards per game. They were 7th in passing offense with over 314 yards per game and 33 touchdowns. With returning rushers Kade Harrington, Michael Handy, and Carl Harris back in the mix, the Cardinals should also be a solid running team as well. Lamar will have to replace their offensive coordinator, Larry Kueck, who retired after 29 seasons in college football.
Defensively, Lamar struggled quite a bit in 2014, allowing almost 360 yards per game. Three Cardinals were picked second team All-Conference, with Omar Tebo (defensive line), Ronnie Jones (linebacker) and Xavier Bethany (safety) leading the way.
Lamar had the difficult climb the past few years to be a respectable FCS team, and they achieved that last year. With another year, and quite a few returning players, the Cardinals look to take the next step, towards the FCS playoffs and the top of the Southland Conference.