PonyFans.com Preview: Mustangs welcome Lamar in home opener
Cardinals fell, 28-14, to Abilene Christian in season opener
Posted on 09/07/2022 by PonyFans.com
Lamar linebacker Vencent Rockwell had a sack and a team-high 6 tackles in the season-opening 28-14 loss at Abilene Christian (photo by lamarcardinals.com).
From just about any perspective, the Mustangs’ season-opening 48-10 rout of North Texas in Denton was unquestionable success. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, one each to Rashee Rice, Jordan Kerley, Roderick Daniels and Moochie Dixon. The Mustangs outgained the Mean Green by more than 150 yards of total offense, and most importantly, started the season with a convincing victory.

But as any coach will quickly point out, no victory carries over from one week to the next. So what kind of opponent will SMU take on in Week 2?

The Mustangs (1-0) will host Lamar University (0-1) in the first home game of the season at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Cardinals head to Dallas after a 28-14 loss at Abilene Christian in their season opener — the same ACU team that the Ponies rolled, 56-9, in last year’s opener.

In the first game of head coach Blane Morgan’s third season at the helm, Lamar scored on two big plays: a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mike Chandler to wide receiver Jalen Dummett, and a 75-yard bomb from Chandler to Sevonne Rhea.

Blane Morgan is in his third year as head coach at Lamar (photo by lamarcardinals.com).
Overall, however, the LU offense was fairly anemic. Apart from the two big scoring strikes, the team mustered 141 yards of total offense. The touchdowns amounted to 131 of the team’s 204 passing yards on the day, and the Cards picked up 68 rushing yards on 23 carries — an average of almost 3.0 yards per carry. In the entire game, Lamar generated seven first downs.

The team stats were more lopsided than the score. The Cardinals kept the score respectable thanks to the two big scoring plays, but otherwise were outmatched by ACU. Lamar had the ball for less than one-third of the game’s 60 minutes — 19:40, compared to 40:20 for the Wildcats — a lopsided margin highlighted by the fact that Lamar’s offense had just 47 plays, compared to 83 for ACU. Furthering the Cards’ frustration was the fact that they were tagged for 240 penalty yards on six flags.

Piloting the LU attack is the 6-foot Chandler, from Converse (Judson), Texas, who came off the bench in three games as a freshman in 2020, started twice among eight appearances in 2021, and still is classified as a freshman because of redshirt and COVID rules. Against the Wildcats, he completed four of his first seven passes for 144 yards and the two touchdowns … and completed just four of his remaining 17 pass attempts for 60 yards.

Khalan Griffin led the Lamar ground game Saturday in Abilene, with 39 yards on eight carries. More notable was the fact that he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, while none of his teammates averaged more than Chandler’s 3.2 yards per carry (16 yards on five carries).

When an offense completes just eight passes in a game, receivers are not going to draw much of a spotlight. Against ACU, Rhea, a transfer from Texas State, and running back Major Bowden were the only two Cardinal passing targets who caught more than a single pass, with three and two, respectively. For a better perspective of the LU passing targets, consider this: the two four receivers from 2021 are gone. The top returning receiver, massive (6-5, 253-pound) tight end Jeremy Davis, had six receptions for 91 yards a year ago.

The Lamar defense, on the other hand, got ample work against the Wildcats. Linebacker Vencent Rockwell, who graduated from Gilmer (Texas) High School but will have something of a homecoming, having been born in Dallas, led the Cardinals with six tackles and had one of the team’s three sacks. (Defensive end Jaymond Jackson and linebacker Adrian Owens had the others.) Linebacker Tyler Jackson and defensive back Ramond Stevens added five tackles.

One game is too small a sample size to get an accurate picture of what a team will be … but Lamar’s loss did come in the wake of a 2-9 season 2021, a campaign the Cardinals ended with eight consecutive losses. The allowed 40 or more points six times a year ago, but maybe Saturday’s loss can be viewed as a measure of improvement: when Lamar and Abilene Christian played a year ago, the Cards came out on the short end of a 56-0 rout. The statistics told the story that backed up that 2-9 record a year ago — among the most telling: Lamar averaged 252.1 yards per game in 2021, while allowing opponents to pile up 405.9.

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