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Home debut for LU tonight

Buoyed by its 5-6 record last season and an encouraging pre-season camp, Lamar University will entertain Texas College tonight in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in 16,000-seat Provost Umphrey Stadium.

 This will be the first meeting ever between Lamar and Texas College, a 755-student school located in Tyler, Texas. While the Cardinals are playing their opener, the Steers already have a game under their belts as they dropped a 47-3 decision at Belhaven University last Saturday.

 Coach Ray Woodard’s second Cardinal squad is loaded with veterans as 19 of 22 position starters and 57 of 68 lettermen return from the 2010 outfit, the first to represent Lamar in football since 1989. The Cardinals’ 19 returning starters include nine on offense and 10 on the defensive side of the ball.

 Among the Cardinals’ veterans are senior quarterback Andre Bevil, who led the team in passing by completing 157 of 288 attempts for 2,013 yards and 14 touchdowns, senior split end J.J. Hayes, who had a team-high 52 receptions for 745 yards and six TDs and senior linebacker Asim Hicks, who led the team with 102 tackles, including 77 of the unassisted variety.

 The offseason additions of huge offensive linemen Daniel Campbell (6-foot-5 and 370 pounds) and Anthony Oden (6-8 and 305) have the Cardinals expecting to improve significantly in their running game this season.

 “Our fall camp was very exciting and productive, but we’re excited to get down to finally playing games against other folks for a change,” said Woodard, who saw his Cardinals set a school record with 429 passing yards in last year’s season opener, a thrilling 30-27 at McNeese State. “We’re tired of running at each other.

 “We’ll be glad to see some fresh faces across that line of scrimmage from us. I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress during our preseason camp, but we’ll know a lot more about that after Saturday night.”

 The Cardinals, who played before overflow crowds in their first four home games and averaged 16,079 fans per home game, are hoping for another outstanding turnout for their first home season opener since the 1988 team opened its campaign with by walloping West Texas A&M 42-21.

 “The buzz about Lamar restarting its football program last season was fantastic, and we want to do our part to assure that it gets bigger and bigger this season,” said Woodard. “As coaches and players, we’re trying to remove ourselves from that as much as possible and simply concentrate on completing our final preparations this first game.”

 “I’m sure we’ll make some mistakes, but we will play hard and we’ll focus on holding the mistakes to a minimum. I think we have good team speed, and we’ll try to take advantage of that.”

 In Texas College, the Cardinals will be facing a team coming off a 1-9 campaign in 2010 but is in its first season under coach George Cumby, a former three-year All-America linebacker at Oklahoma University and a former All-Pro selection with the Green Bay Packers. The Steers’ only points last week came on a 36-yard field goal by sophomore kick Houston Creighton.

 “Texas College has a game under its belt, and despite the score of that game (47-3 in favor of Belhaven University), we must guard against taking those guys (the Steers) lightly,” said Woodard.

 The Cardinals will follow the Texas College game with a road visit to South Alabama, which boasts an unblemished 18-0 record since starting its football program during the 2009 season. The Jaguars, who blanked the Cardinals 26-0 last season, opened their 2011 campaign with a 20-10 home victory over West Alabama Thursday night.