The football hangover of week 1 is now gone. This week Amon G. Carter stadium will be packed with purple and white not only due to the fact that it is the home opener for the Horned Frogs but because the opponent for the national title hopefuls is the purple clad Stephen F. Austin State Lumberjacks from Nacogdoches, Texas.
SFA is an FCS team from the Southland Conference. The Lumberjacks are coming off a Week 1 loss to Northern Arizona while the Horned Frogs snagged a hard fought win in Minneapolis-Saint Paul against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
From a strictly depth perspective, TCU has the upper hand against the Jacks. Week 1 showed us that anything could happen especially after South Dakota State knocked off fellow Big 12 member Kansas. Second year head coach, Clint Conque has turned the Lumberjack program around and will get all he can out of his players. SFA had an 8-5 record with an appearance in the FCS playoffs under Conque in 2014.
Last week SFA found the endzone four times in the loss to NAU, with three of them coming on the ground.
The SFA offense will return eight starters and will be led under center by Conque’s son Zach. The Southland Newcomer of the year threw for 2,733 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first year at the helm of the Lumberjack offense. Against Northern Arizona, Conque threw for 297 yards with a TD. TCU will primarily have to worry about Conque’s arm. However, in 2014, Conque showed that he is also capable of getting the job done with his feet by rushing for 626 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Last week, he had 68 yards rushing with 2 TDs in the loss to Northern Arizona. In the backfield, look for Joshawa West to provide support for Conque. Against Northern Arizona, West rushed for 69 yards on 17 carries but was unable to find the promised land.
This SFA squad is a pass heavy team. Luckily for SFA, they return two seniors in the forms of Aaron Thomas ( six catches for 71 yards without a score in Week 1) and Braxton Beardon (One catch for 10 yards, 0 TDs in Week 1). Thomas is clearly a favorite target for Conque. However, Conque’s favorite target in Week 1 was redshirt sophomore, Robert Sylvester (Eight catches for 75 yards).
If SFA continues this trend of trying to move the ball through the air and then try to punch it in behind their veteran O-Line (All five 2014 starters returning), this will play in to the hands of TCU’s defensive line and linebackers. With the pass heavy offense, I also see Derrick Kindred, Kenny Iloka, and the rest of the TCU secondary having a big game.
SFA runs a 4-3 defense much similar scheme-wise to Minnesota. They will occasionally drop a linebacker into coverage for extra help in the secondary. They only lost one starter in the trenches and return senior defensive tackles Donald Bryant and Lance Skyler. These two will be looked to in order to keep the offensive line engaged to free up the linebackers to provide added QB pressure for Kedrick Harrison and Jamal Allen coming off the edge at defensive end.
The linebacker corps at SFA is still the biggest question mark for the Jacks after All-Conference linebacker, Collin Garret graduated. However, look for defensive coordinator Matt Williamson to mix returners, Justin Owens and Chance Barney, with their JuCo transfers, Price Miller and George Stone III, in order to find some continuity before the start of conference play.
The defensive backs will have solid leadership with Demundre Freeman and Alex Miller returning for their senior years. But they should not have any missed strides from the offseason with the return of juniors Patrick Martin and Hipolito Corporan.
SFA’s defense is good, do not mistake that. However, I think the difference in depth will prove to be too much for the Jacks on the defensive side of the ball and Trevone Boykin and company will finally get back to their barn burning ways that were not completely present in Minnesota.
SFA is returning two senior specialists in their kicker, Mason Juhl, and their punter, Nick Bruno. Juhl handled kickoffs his last three seasons while Jordan Wiggs handled field goals during his tenure in Nacogdoches. In the week 1 loss to Northern Arizona, Juhl was perfect on PATs and had a 62.6 yard average on kickoffs with 3 of the 5 kickoffs going for touchbacks.
Bruno has a 39.2 yard average on punts during his career at SFA. Bruno has booted the ball over 50 yards 22 times while at SFA with 50 punts downed inside the 20-yardline. However, if his 34.4 yard average from last week is any indication of what’s to come, the Horned Frogs should get good field position on punt return.
This is the week TCU should get back on track offensively. The offense looked good against Minnesota but was unable to punch the ball in when it counted.
The defense looked stellar, as well. Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee will put up big numbers as one would assume against an FCS opponent. Look for Derrick Kindred, Kenny Iloka and the rest of the Frogs’ secondary to create plenty of big plays and turnovers to put the ball in Trevone Boykin’s hands. I’ll also be bold enough to predict a special team touchdown, more than likely on kickoff.
Prediction: TCU 67 Stephen F. Austin 17