Lamar to welcome in Incarnate Word

Published 10:37 am Friday, October 12, 2018

BEAUMONT — To find positives in Lamar’s 1-4 season, just look to the first category in the Southland Conference’s team statistics.

Then look at the national leaders in interceptions.

The Cardinals rank third out of 11 teams in scoring offense at 33.8 points per game, just behind Central Arkansas (36.6) and Incarnate Word (34.6).

When it comes to total offense, Lamar (1-4, 0-3 Southland) ranks 59th out of 124 Football Championship Subdivision teams at 399.8 yards per game. Incarnate Word (3-2, 3-0) is 17th at 472.2.

Just thank Lamar’s rushing attack — which is 21st-best in the FCS at 226.2 — in large part for its production.

“We’re a run-pass option offense. That tells me right now we’re having a lot more run success,” Cardinals coach Mike Schultz said Monday, his team coming off a bye week. “When you snap the ball, it’s either you can throw or pass. It looks like we’re getting more run reads than pass reads.”

Incarnate Word, Lamar and Abilene Christian are the three teams that each have two players among the top 10 rushers in the Southland Conference. Quarterback Darrel Colbert averages 69 yards a game and has rushed for six touchdowns, and A.J. Walker goes for 56.6 a game with a touchdown this season while going from fullback to tailback.

Two high-profile offenses known as the Cardinals will meet up for a 3 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Provost Umphrey Stadium, but Lamar and UIW are heading in different directions overall.

UIW, which has fielded a football team since 2009, just a half-game behind powerhouse McNeese State (5-1, 4-0) in Southland standings under first-year head coach Eric Morris.

“They’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Schultz said. “They’re 3-0. They’ve done a great job offensively.”

Behind that attack is senior Ra’Quanne Dickens, who leads the Southland in rushing at 123.6 yards per game, and true freshman Jon Copeland, who has 1,329 passing yards and nine touchdowns to his name. He has completed exactly 50 percent of his passes (86 for 172 with six interceptions).

“As you watch him on film, you can actually see him grow into the offense,” Schultz said.

Copeland just has to watch out for Lamar’s secondary, which has helped the team rank tied for 11th nationally (and first in the Southland) with eight interceptions, five behind leader Northern Arizona.

Senior safety Davon Jernigan has three picks on the year. Two of them came in his first start of the season Sept. 29 at Nicholls State.

“We start practice every day with a 5-minute turnover circuit,” Schultz said. “We start every day with a huge emphasis on turning the ball over. What we’ve got to do is not have any turnovers on the offensive end that we’re getting on defense.”