Lamar faces threat of losing record on road
SOUTHLAND FOOTBALL: LAMAR (4-5) AT INCARNATE WORD (5-4)
- When: 2 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Benson Stadium, San Antonio
- Radio: KLVI-AM 560
- Southland records: Lamar 3-4, UIW 4-3
- Series record: Lamar leads 2-0; last meeting, Lamar won 31-20 in 2014
BEAUMONT — It is do-or-die time for Lamar’s football team.
No losing record by an opponent has ever assured the Cardinals of a victory on the football field. Neither has any evidence of past performance.
Week-by-week, Lamar (4-5, 3-4 Southland) has either addressed past shortcomings on both sides of the ball, come out lethargic and bounced back too late or just never finished. A season of so much promise after just three games has spiraled down to a fight just for a winning season.
Yes, it has come down to that. And head coach Ray Woodard owns up to it.
“We have some of the same things we have to address,” he said. “When you’ve played nine games, and some of the same problems are there, that’s coaching and that’s on me. And I’ve got to do a better job. Sometimes I go work on something and I think it’s fixed. And then we go play another game, and I see that it’s not.”
All of a sudden, today’s game at Incarnate Word (5-4, 4-3) has plenty meaning. The home Cardinals can secure only their second-ever winning record since starting football in 2009 with a win today. The visiting Cardinals have to win their final two games for a second straight winning season, and second since re-launching their football program in 2010.
Lamar’s inconsistency has raised questions about the team’s focus, after blowing a 21-7 lead on homecoming against a previously one-win team in Nicholls State. Before then, there were slow starts at Southeastern Louisiana, Northwestern State and Central Arkansas — and Northwestern State at the time was winless.
Junior Kade Harrington, the nation’s leading rusher (1,805 yards) in the Football Championship Subdivision this year, has not been able to convert his personal success into crucial team wins, but he doesn’t blame any lack of focus.
“We have very good senior leadership,” he said. “For most of these guys, it’s the last time they’re ever going to suit up with two games left in their careers. They’re going to make sure we’re all focused because as underclassmen, we’re playing for them. We’re trying to make it most enjoyable for our seniors.”
The week started off anything but enjoyable for Lamar.
Defensive coordinator Craig McGallion, a longtime friend of Woodard’s, resigned Sunday after his unit allowed 559 total yards in Nicholls State’s 30-28 victory.
Woodard said he tried to talk McGallion out of his decision.
“I think Saturday pushed him over the edge,” Woodard said. “I don’t know this for sure, but I don’t think it was a spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff decision, but I think that pushed him over the edge.”
McGallion is expected to remain on staff in a non-coaching capacity until his retirement date can be finalized with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, Woodard said.
Mark Criner now has the responsibility of steering the defense back in the right direction with two games remaining, and the voyage continues today in San Antonio.
If the pattern remains the same, Incarnate Word will close its home schedule with a loss. Wins and losses have alternated each game this season.
And Lamar will look like a team back on track — with second-ranked McNeese State looming for its home finale.
• Lamar: 475.1 yards per game (287.8 rushing, 187.3 passing); leaders Kade Harrington (junior RB, 1,805 yards and 19 touchdowns on 218 carries); Joe Minden (senior QB, 1,110 yards, 10 touchdowns on 98-of-180 passing, 9 interceptions); Reggie Begelton (senior WR, 477 ayrds, 5 touchdowns on 48 receptions)
• UIW: 351.9 yards per game (136.2 rushing, 215.7 passing); leaders Trent Brittain (sophomore QB, 1,861 yards, 8 touchdowns on 145-of-284 passing, 11 interceptions; 370 yards, 5 touchdowns on 75 carries); Junior Sessions (junior RB, 360 yards, 2 touchdowns on 74 carries); and Cole Wick (junior TE, 346 yards, 1 touchdown on 28 receptions)
• Lamar: Xavier Bethany (sophomore safety, 70 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 pass break-ups); Larance Hale (junior DE, 6.5 sacks, 17 for losses, 69 tackles); Rodney Randle (freshman CB, 3 interceptions, 4 pass break-ups)
• UIW: Myke Tavarres (senior LB, 94 total tackles, 21.5 for losses, 7.5 sacks, 5 pass break-ups); Josh Zellars (junior LB, 65 tackles, 3 for losses, 2 fumbles); Robert Johnson (senior safety, 3 interceptions, 46 tackles)
• Lamar coach Ray Woodard: “Every player and every coach, I picked. I didn’t inherit anything, and everything that’s done, I approved. So, if anybody’s got an issue, it goes on me, and I do take that responsibility. Most of the time, when I read something in the newspaper or on the Internet, it doesn’t bother me a whole lot because I think I’m harder on myself than they are. I may not show it because I have a way of bouncing back. When we don’t win every game, and that’s what I try to do, I take it personal.”